Sunday, January 27, 2008


Empathy: The intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

I was totally overwhelmed by a friend's gift of empathy the other night.

Kay and Roger came for dinner--we hadn't really connected since before the holidays and were excited to catch up with these dear friends. Kay walked into my kitchen, placed the still-warm pumpkin pie she'd baked on my counter, hugged me and then asked, "How is Scout?"

Even though I haven't seen Kay in a while, she's followed the saga of my sick Sheltie via my blog and emails. She knows Scout personally because of several walks we've taken together with her dog, Panda.

"She's in a lot of pain tonight," I said, motioning to Scout who is curled up pitifully in her doggie bed. "Her neck is really hurting her and the prednisone doesn't seem to give her any relief."

Kay bent down to scratch Scout's head and was rewarded with a feeble tail wag. Scout struggled to get out of her bed and followed us to the dining room, holding her head in the peculiar crooked way she'd done all day. I didn't realize it, but she curled up behind the spot where I was sitting. I figured it out real fast when I got up to clear the table and shoved my chair into her already aching body. Her pitiful cries of pain made all of us wince.

Scout kind of hobbled after me throughout the evening. She tried to join me on the couch, but couldn't because of her sore joints. Even when she was lying still, she panted heavily and her eyes were glazed with pain. It was hard for me to relax and enjoy the fellowship with friends because of Scout's suffering.

As Roger and Kay were preparing to leave, Kay--and Scout--followed me back into the kitchen. Kay watched my poor dog limp to her bed and attmept to find a compfortable position. Scout whimpered when I tried to help her lay down--I'd accidently touched her neck--and then she collapsed, panting in misery.

Kay then did a most amazing thing! She got down on her knees, cupped Scout's head in her hands and asked the God of all mercy to heal Scout and comfort my heart. Tears came to my eyes--and peace to my soul--as I listened to my friend's simple but heartfelt request of the Creator of the Universe.

As Kay hugged me goodbye, she said, "I could see the pain in your eyes as you watched Scout suffer tonight. Like you were feeling every pang with your puppy . . ."

That would be empathy. And that's the gift Kay gave me that night, as she felt my heart and shared my pain. Empathy is the embodiment of one of my favorite verses:
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2
Thanks, dear friend!

By the way, Scout seemed to turn a corner that night and hasn't experienced the severe neck pain since . . .