While New Yorkers have a reputation for being gruff, cold, and even obnoxious, the truth is that human empathy holds this city together. New York City is shaped by our ability to appreciate the lives of others – the quiet struggles they fight every day, the unvoiced pain in their hearts, and the long-ago tragedies that still live inside them and continue to shape their lives.
New Yorkers are acutely aware of how hard life is for other people because we’re surrounded by those other people all of the time. We hear our neighbor’s marriages end in a fit of screams. We sit next to the shivering addict on the subway. We see the abandoned and mentally ill cowering in makeshift housing and wonder how they – how we – got to this point.
Empathy, unfortunately, isn’t a solution to our city’s problems. But it is the foundation on which those solutions are built. Being able to relate to others and appreciate their pain, their goals, and their circumstances is the first step to wanting to help others. Our empathy may be masked by our hurried walking and love of profanity, but our empathy is real. We understand the value of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, because that someone could be us. And those shoes could be our shoes… perhaps even the same shoes that brought us here.
*These shoes were in Hell’s Kitchen on 55th between 9th and 10 Avenues on Sunday, October 17.