You just never know what someone else is dealing with every day of their lives. That old Indian proverb says, “Never criticize a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins”. I guess you’d have to say that’s a loose English translation.

When I was a boy, I heard people say when a little criticism came their way, “Just follow me around one day and you’ll see”. Or, “I’ll swap with you any day”. That kind of thing. It’s all the same.

I’m not sure we spend enough time understanding what our friends, our family, our neighbors or fellow workers are going through in their private lives. Remember that old Charlie Rich song: “No One Knows What Goes On Behind Closed Doors”? I never did like the song but that phrase is the kind that comes with velcro on it. It sticks and won’t let go. It’s a truism. I mean, obviously you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.

But if you could see behind those doors – if you swallowed a Kryptonite pill and suddenly had the power of X-ray vision – what do you think you would find? Well, how about those same things that go on behind your own closed door? I used to say, in my youthful naiveté´, that I understand other people because I understand myself and we are all the same. I don’t say that anymore. I think that was a bunch of arrogant, if not ignorant, claptrap. There is, however, a kernel of truth in there. We are all human and as such share a remarkable repertory of emotions, experiences and needs. You’d think, given that, that compassion, patience, and even love would flow like the endless tides across all of humanity.

You’d think that – wouldn’t you?

Well, obviously, it does not. But that does not relieve us of the opportunity, even the obligation for empathy: that ability to reach out – to try to understand – to slip into someone else’s moccasins. Our world is so driven by self interest – the lust for power, things and money, that kindness becomes like the little house stuffed between the skyscrapers, squeezed out by progress, withering away in the shadows.

Reality check: I probably would not say any of this if I had a lot of power and money. But I could say it. Hopefully I would. We will never know, of course. And really, it has nothing to do with power and money. It simply has to do with empathy. That realization that we are all human. That we are all brothers and sisters. That we all deserve a little slack.

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