The Case for Care in the Face of Sympathy

I come from a rough neighborhood; that’s no secret.  Where I grew up, people were gruff, rough, and tough.  In fact, here’s a typical greeting; and seriously, no bullshit, verbatim: “Joe!  How the hell are you, you f**king fat bastard?  Life treating you good or what?”

Yep, pretty typical.  Crazy right?  But, you know this guy cares about Joe, even though his greeting seems inappropriate, aggressive, and offensive.  But, at least it isn’t fake, pretentious, politically correct, empty, and hoping I’m better than you are, kind of shit greeting.

How about this from Anthony Jeselnik?  I think this really hits the nail on the head.  He says, “People see some horrible tragedy in the world and they run to the internet.  They run to their social media; facebook, twitter, whatever they got, and they all write down the exact same thing: ‘My thoughts and prayers …’ (or “hugs”, “bless your heart”, etc).”

He continues, “Do you know what that’s worth?  Fucking nothing.  You’re not giving your time, your money, or even your compassion.  All you’re doing is saying, “Don’t forget about me today.”

Funny, but there’s a good bit of truth to that.  I get it though.  When there’s nothing we can actually do, we want to offer some words of sympathy, but dammit; put some thought into it, instead of some canned bullshit.

Now, at this point in my life, I’m about 50% removed from inner city Philly, so I’ve come to understand that most people don’t communicate that way.  Everyone has some kind of an accent and cursing and sarcasm are part of mine.  But in many places, it scares the shit out of people, so I try to curb the accent a bit.  I fail, a lot.

But!  But, I cannot bring myself to say empty things, like “Prayers” and “Hugs”.  Ugh.  It makes me feel slimy.  Instead, I say things like, “I’ll mow your lawn, you can stay at my house, I’ll pick up your groceries, I’m on my way over with bourbon, I’ll walk your dog, take your trash out, change your tire, pick up your kids from practice, give you money, and sit with you at the hospital.”

The weird thing is … I often get silence or a blank stare as if people don’t recognize honest sincerity and care.  It feels like they think I’m just being “nice”, but don’t actually mean it.  That sucks!  We’ve taken the care out of real care and replaced it with canned sympathy.

Sometimes we can’t help or simply don’t want to and that’s okay.  Wait … what?!  Come on; let’s not act all righteous and surprised.  It’s true and the only reason to feel guilty about it is the perception of others.  And posting four prayer emojis doesn’t show that anyone cares more than the other person whom only posted three.  It’s so weird.


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