Empathy comes from knowing the other.
I’ve been trying to cultivate some habits that help me be open to “other-ness,” people from outside my world, neighborhood, family, affinity groups, church, groups, you name it.
Can’t remember where I read the good suggestion that we try to shop in parts of town where we don’t live (and that perhaps have less than my share of affluent neighbors), so as to spread around material benefits. And to meet others who aren’t just like me.
I like this Henri Nouwen quote from “Bread for the Journey”:
We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.
There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.
We’ve been laughing at my church lately (though we know it’s not funny) that churches can often have a “calling to the poor” that remains abstract. A valid question is “What are the names of the poor whom you interact with?”