Jason Vicknair went on Twitter to complain about a Mexican restaurant in Allen, Texas. He posted a photo of his beleaguered spouse and wrote: “My wife, date night after three months locked up in quarantine. Waiting for shredded cheese as it’s the only way she can eat fajitas. We’ve asked four people. Going on 18 minutes now. Just unreal. We gotta quit blaming #COVID19 for crappy service.”
Eris: “Poor Karen. The humanity. My condolences.”
Zach: “130,000 Americans are dead, but that’s nothing compared to the hell of having to eat fajitas without shredded cheese.”
Thoren: “I understand. My wife has this condition. The only way she can eat a fajita is with cheese. Doctors say it’s not fatal but there’s no cure.”
Helen: “Prayers for this poor couple in quarantine for three months while the rest of us lived our regular lives with no changes whatsoever.”
Eric: “I am starting a GoFundCheese for this long-suffering person. Three months! Can you imagine? Please give!”
Kismet: “I feel for them. My wife starved to death waiting on creamer for her coffee at a coffee shop in war-torn Darfur. To this day I break down in sobs when I see a bottle of International Delight.”
Kellyanne Kanye (probably not her real name): “I raged because my fajitas were topped with Velveeta, then I met a woman who had no cheese. Really makes you think.”
Ed: “I always have a pocketful of cheese because I am a good husband.”
Funkotronic: “Our society will never progress until people who do things like this are mercilessly shamed into seclusion.”
Some people are hard to feel sorry for — people who think they cannot eat fajitas without cheese, people who think the way to get past a pandemic is to act like there is no pandemic, and people who think it is time for a new statue of Robert E. Lee.
We are good at recognizing arrogance, self-interest and entitlement — in other people. We are eager to judge things we know little about. We are not as empathetic as we think.
When churches in America had the culture’s attention, the church failed to teach racial equality, gender equality or economic equality, because the church did not see the centrality of empathy in the Christian story.
“The pandemic has been exacerbated by those who think only of themselves.”
This lack of empathy has a cost. The pandemic has been exacerbated by those who think only of themselves. People are dying because some refuse to take simple steps that will save others’ lives. Those who will not wear masks live in a world that is smaller than 6 feet in diameter. The Black Lives Matter movement is necessary, because for four centuries too many have been unwilling to feel another’s pain. The lack of empathy keeps us from suffering for the poor trapped in a cycle of poverty that cannot be conquered by their own hard work. Genuine empathy would end much of the suffering in the world.
Patrick Hutchison was at a Black Lives Matter protest in London when he ended up rescuing a far-right counter protester whose life was being threatened: “I scooped him up and put him on my shoulders. I marched toward the police with him while all the guys were surrounding me, protecting me and the guy I had on my shoulder. I just want equality for all of us. At the moment, the scales are unfairly balanced, and I want things to be fair for my children and grandchildren.” That is what empathy looks like.
My 87-year-old father goes to the local grocery store that has started opening at 6 a.m. He is excited that you have to be over 65 to enter the store before 7:00. I have pointed out that 30-year-olds do not want to shop for groceries at 6:30. My dad is always the only one there. The grocery store is not making money during that hour.
Empathy is usually quiet. Empathy steps to the other side of the sidewalk to make others comfortable. Empathy does not let out that sigh — you know the one — the wordless disapproval toward the person in the check-out line whose toddler is having a meltdown. When empathy has to correct someone, it pains her to do it, and she does so gently. Empathy makes a habit of giving others the benefit of the doubt. Empathy gives charitably, knowing that eventually someone will take advantage of our generosity. Empathy tries to listen rather than convince. Empathy understands that there are reasons people are the way that they are.
This terrible pandemic is an invitation to empathize — even with those waiting for shredded cheese.