A lesson in empathy

I woke early this morning and when I realized that it was futile to keep trying to go back to sleep, I got up. The house was still dark and cold. I fumbled for my robe, wrapped and belted it tightly around me and went to the kitchen to make coffee.  Soon its fragrant aroma filled the room as it bubbled and dripped steadily into the pot. While it finished brewing, I headed back to the bedroom for my glasses to read the newspaper before work.

I got as far as as the living room when the ground began to vibrate beneath my feet and the sound of an ominous rumble came from outside.  We had snow  yesterday and at first I thought a snow plough was steamrolling down the street.  But I soon realized this was no truck; this was an earthquake. The cat, who had been frozen in place on the arm of the couch, jumped down and started to run for safety. But the poor thing didn’t know what the danger was or where it was coming from.  After a few false starts, she ran to the basement.  I’d always heard you should take cover beneath a doorjamb during an earthquake. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I opened the door to the closest room in the hallway and stood beneath its jamb. The sound intensified for a few seconds and after a loud cracking sound, it stopped as suddenly as it had started.

I waited to see if my husband, who was still in bed, would come find us, but he slept through the whole thing. I ran to my computer and logged onto local news sites.  Sure enough, within a few minutes, there was a post by Earthquakes Canada (who knew there was a federal department called Earthquakes Canada?):

Automatic detection of seismic event: magnitude 4.2 – 13 Jan 5:38 EST – SALABERRY-DE-VALLEYFIELD, QC region

I think I was given a refresher lesson in empathy. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people in Haiti. The radio station my husband listens to had non-stop, talk-radio shows about the anniversary and I admit to getting bored with it.  I admire this proud people who lost parents, children, friends and more, who lived in and with destruction all around them and who, despite all  this,  strived to rebuild. But, a little voice in my head was saying, “It was ten years ago. What can we do now, especially that much of the funds raised to help rebuild the country were appropriated by corrupt officials?”

The quake I experienced was tiny in comparison but it gave me renewed respect for what the Haitian people went through. It lasted only a few seconds, killed no one and destroyed nothing. But those few seconds were frightening.

The Haiti earthquake was a 7.0 magnitude that lasted more than 30 seconds! That had to seem like forever when the ground is literally violently shaking beneath your feet and everything around you is crumbling.

It’s natural that we identify more easily to things when we have a personal connection. And as someone who works for a charity, I know there are many worthwhile causes and we can’t support them all. But I learned today that it costs nothing to have a little empathy.

Falling into Clouds

It’s Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday and the prompt for today is: “the first 3 words of the first full sentence.”  1. Grab the closest book to you when you sit down to write your post. 2. Open it to a random page. 3. Locate the first complete sentence on that page. 4. Use the first three words of that sentence to start your post, then take it from there–write whatever comes to mind. That’s it! Have fun!

In the looming arrival of consciousness, I keep my eyes tightly shut. When I open them, I see the blue, digital numbers of the clock radio on my night table blinking 5:08 a.m. in the darkness.  I close my eyes, waiting to see if the little gerbil in my mind is running on his exercise wheel this morning, spewing random thoughts and tasks for the day from the spinning wheel. If so, then I know sleep is only wishful thinking and I might as well get up and get going. But, no, he is quiet this morning. I feel peaceful and so close my eyes again and enjoy the warmth of the covers, the softness of the pillows and the calm of the early morning.

Soon after I close my eyes, sleep pulls me gently down, down, down.  It feels like falling into a lake of clouds and I let myself sink deeper and deeper. Amid the haze of mist and fog, come wild dreams that make no sense. They’re not scary, just filled with people I don’t know and stories that have no rhyme or reason.

When my eyes open again it’s 6:15 a.m.  The cat, who seeks warmth, often sleeps at my feet in winter. She jumps down from the bed, landing on the floor with a thud, only to return in a few minutes, purring as she settles back down. “That cat is smart,” I tell myself. “She is telling you to stay in bed. It’s a cold, wet January Saturday and there’s not a reason in the world for you to get up.” So I stay.  And soon enough, I’m drifting off again, back to the land of clouds and sleep-induced hallucinations.


Shift. I didn’t even have to think about it. The word came, unbidden, while I was reading a post  by candidkay, a blogger I follow. In it, she talks about choosing a word every year as a theme of sorts (her word this year is “Now”). At the end of the post she asks readers if they have chosen a word and what it means to them.

That’s when the word SHIFT elbowed its way to the forefront of my thoughts. It’s not so much that I chose that word; it’s more like it chose me. And I don’t know why it should mean something to me. I just know that I have been feeling a shift coming in my life for a few months.

I can trace some of the reasons for it. I have been on a quest for certain changes and setting them in motion in small ways. Call it the law of attraction. Call it “putting it out there in the universe”. Whatever it is, after about two years of thinking and searching, I can feel things shifting into place.

My biggest fear is that I am not sure all the shifts will be positive. I worry a little about the “Be careful what you wish for” syndrome. Or what if the shift I am feeling foreshadows a health problem? But then I tell myself that what I can do is control my thoughts.  So I choose not to get carried away with unfounded fears, to focus on the positive and look forward to whatever shifts are coming my way.

If you have ever felt like this, I would love to hear about it and how it turned out.