Posts tagged empathy

Happy Mother’s Day… from six feet away!!!


Mother’s Day usually led to a conversation I had with my mom almost every year. The language of adoption. Some famous person who had adopted a child would pass away and the reporter would usually state something like “Her children, John and Mary and her adopted son, Fred” and my mom and I would be unnerved that there would be a differentiation made.

In 1965, a young woman, no more than 19 years old, gave birth to me. I do not know the circumstances surrounding her decision to give me up for adoption but that was to be part of my story. Adoption and acceptance have always been important to me. My parents always told me I was special and I knew from the very beginning that I was adopted.
But that is where it stayed. It was part of my story that differentiated me from friends, classmates and even cousins. A closed adoption made final in 1967, my parents were Mary and Ernie Parmel – my parents. No “adoptive” – I was not referred to as “adopted”. And to the days after my parents both left this earth, I was their daughter.

Laws may change, new information may be garnered, even sealed records can be opened. That doesn’t change the fact that my mom raised me to be the person I am today – as her own. A friend who was also adopted once said to me that we didn’t grow under their heart but in it.

One thing I know for sure, my mom (and dad too!) is up there watching out for me, shaking her head at the crazy things I get myself involved in, wringing her hands with the things I do that she would have told me not to. On Mother’s Day, I realize that she was right 99.9% of the time, she worried about me more than she needed to, and I know that “paper is thicker than blood”, a phrase we laughed at.

And one more thing on this Mother’s Day…
Mostly all the people in my life, over all these years have told me that today we celebrate women who are mothers, who wish to be mothers, women who have lost children, who have chosen not to have children and those who did not have the gift of their own children in their lives. Faces, names, known or unknown, women that have given up a gift of a child, conceived in any circumstance should also be celebrated for their ultimate sacrifice – so that someone may have a better life – the child and the family they are given to. I thank the woman who gave me life – I hope that one day, I can thank her in person.

But I have come across a few people that believe that if you do not have children or if you are not their mother, they shouldn’t wish you a Happy Mother’s Day; those people choosing to walk past someone while acknowledging another just steps ahead or behind them. Just stop and think sometimes if you are guilty of marginalizing someone like that – you don’t know how deep the hurt you cause can go. May those who do that never find themselves in the same position – or maybe it would give them pause for thought. After all, some of the deepest hurts are caused by three little words not being said. It is always three little words, right?
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!

And I mean EVERYONE!!

Not Alive and Well and Yet, Some Things are Still Surprising

I don’t get this one even more.


I mean, I get it – but I don’t see why it happens.


As a country, we are collectively mourning the loss of five Dallas Police Officers.  FIVE…  In a matter of minutes, FIVE lives gone, children without fathers, wives without husbands, mothers without sons.


Then we take sides…..

This is terrorism.  The gunman wanted to fulfill an agenda he had, radical or fanatical thinking behind it – take your pick.  And he was trained by the structure present in our country’s military.  Homegrown, by definition.

You hear all sides – it wasn’t justified, it wasn’t right, it was justified by not right, it was justified and right – all positions on the spectrum.  Liberals cite the gun laws, Conservatives cite gun laws.  Democrats differ from Republican thinking, Republicans differ from Democrats.

And in this wonderful age of social media, we can be scrutinized about our beliefs in a two word post on Facebook or in less than 140 characters on Twitter.  People hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see.  They believe who they choose to listen to and dismiss those who do not agree with them.


I have lived in New York all my life.  I take pride in the fact that if someone needs a ride or directions to get somewhere, I can provide assistance.  I can tell you the “ins and outs” of travelling in the five boroughs of our city because I have driven almost every section of every borough over the twenty-years that I ran a balloon delivery business.

Yesterday, I read a post from someone who is married to a newly hired police officer in another part of the country.  She wrote about the sacrifice her husband is making – “so willing to sacrifice so much for people who care so little”.

Want to know what’s wrong with police training? Their home lives? Their way of thinking?  Read that last part of the last sentence in the previous paragraph.  Thankfully, most police officers truly believe in the serve and protect and that belief being applied to everyone they come into contact with.  But those who are of the mentality that “people care so little” have no business putting the uniform on.  You are charged with serving those you look like, those you do not look like, those who dress, pray and eat like you or not. When we wake up to that reality, we will have to address the broader issue of eradicating racism from every police department’s employee – young and old, newly hired or near retirement.

Today I was challenged by someone I am friends with on Facebook, to “take a walk in Brownsville or Bed-Stuy after dark tonight” – the challenge concluded by telling me to let the person “know how it goes”.  This particular person and I have minimal contact with each other – a distant relative, the kind you may see at weddings and funerals, but not much more.  We were raised in the same neighborhood as children but we apparently see the world from two hugely different perspectives.

Truth is, I have gone through Brownsville and Bed-Stuy, East New York and Coney Island; I have made deliveries in these areas as well as Bensonhurst, Mill Basin, Bayside and Astoria.  I assume that the “challenger” (as we will refer to her) wanted me to agree with her that those neighborhoods that she cited were “dangerous”.  Well, maybe they are – as all the rest of the neighborhoods in any area could be – at night, in broad daylight, at dawn.

The insinuations that were prompted by a post are revolting.  People in a more privileged position can draw all the conclusions they want.  Walk the walk, as they say; put your money where your mouth is.

I have worked with the finest people in this gigantic city – and believe you me, they are not always found in the best of positions, circumstances, or neighborhoods.  I have decorated street fairs in Brownsville, grand openings in Bed-Stuy; I have brought my staff to places in every borough that may have made others look around nervously; we have been at all-day events in Corona.  Our shop was in Coney Island for 19 years and we opened and closed all hours of the day and night.  You may ask if we ever had problems.  The answer is yes some issues but not something that would have chased us from wherever we were.  The only think that ever scared us was Superstorm Sandy and even then, with every single property in Coney Island being affected, neighbors who walked passed our store in the days after the storm, asked if we were okay, if they could help and would we be back in operation.

Social media – where you can post something and it lives forever.  The internet? Put it up – take it down, the web has the last laugh.  If someone posts something you do not agree with, let them know; if a comment is biased, object.  Do not stand by and look the other way – your voice is as important as theirs.  Use your voice!

The word that will carry us forward is EMPATHY.  Know what its like to be someone else…..

Marriage Equality, The Catholic Church and Scandal

Where are you on the "Empathy Scale"?

Here we go again….

Let me get a few things straight before we get started. I am now a lapsed Catholic – I believe everything I was taught during eight years of Catholic school – my parents both volunteered most of their time to our parish church and school, a trait they not only passed on to me but enjoyed my involvement with the church in the various roles I took. I was an altar server as a teenager (the first girl in my parish to do so), a lector, CCD teacher, Teen Club member, then leader, a Eucharistic Minister, Folk Group leader, softball and swimming coach, volunteer school aide and later, was a teacher in two different Diocesean elementary schools.

I have been “on the inside” since I was a child; my parents volunteered and brought many stories home of their dealings with the clergy and other volunteers – as a curious child, I always loved to “accidentally overhear”. I have been included with adults and their conversations when I was younger as the only kid in the room most times – “You’re smart – you understand” is what I often heard. Dinners over the years with clergy members, from nuns and priests, to pastors and Diocesean big wigs – I have had the honor to know many Bishops in later years as well as a great number of priests, sharing many conversations and a few glasses of wine with some.

All that being said, I can say to you, I am a Catholic. I believe in my faith, my love for the “Hippie Jesus”, as I like to call him, that I was introduced to as a kid – the 70’s showed us a handsome man with long hair, in a robe and sandals, loving everyone, forgiving everyone – shunning no one but the hypocrites at the Temple. I believe we are here for a reason, to do all the good we can, love one another, celebrate in the joys of a heavenly paradise when we leave this earth, surrounded by the ones we love. Based on that, I want to believe in the best in people, love conquering all, and in the end, goodness in what people do, think and say.

And as I said, here we go again….

I read an article in the Diocesean newspaper recently that began with the sentence “the June 26th decision by the Supreme Court was a tragic day for the Church and the world”. On that day, the United States Supreme Court handed down two decisions regarding marriage equality. The Defense of Marriage Act was dead, California’s Prop 8 was declared null as the people who brought suit did not have the right to do so. Finally, the United States government, the Federal level would be acknowledging same-sex marriages and all the Federal laws and statutes afforded heterosexual couples since this country was founded would be equally afforded to homosexual couples.

This decision was a landmark in the history of America – and one that the Catholic church calls “tragic”. The article seemed to be a repetitive rant stating the Church’s belief that the “truth about marriage” was that it is “one man, one woman, for life”. That is their view, steadfast and pure. But it causes me to ask one question, speaking of steadfast and pure (emphasis on pure) – why has the Catholic Church not been as vocal, passionate and condemning of their own scandal involving sex?

Today, on a New York City radio station, I heard a story of a Catholic priest,”defrocked” because of allegations, later proof of child molestation, who had lost his home because of Superstorm Sandy. As a result of him having “nowhere else to go”, a parish in a neighboring city had taken him in and allowed him to live in the parish rectory. Um, anyone see a problem here?

One of the last years I taught, the faculty was informed of a new Music Director the parish had hired – he would also be running the children’s choir. I distinctly remember another teacher and I both raised our heads up when we heard the man’s name – he had been a parish priest in my home parish where this other faculty member had also taught. We raised our heads because this priest had been in the parish leading the altar boy, sports, teen and music programs. He was there for many years and then suddenly, gone. No explanation – just gone. Now he was the new music director in the school where I was teaching. The other faculty member and I were called into the principal’s office right after the meeting – we were sat down and told that under no circumstances were we to say we knew this new music director. Much younger, more naive, we questioned once and were told we would be “let go” if anything came out about where he was from. Very strange, we both thought, but as the Church’s scandal issues had not been brought forth at that time and because we couldn’t imagine what would have elicited this preemptive reprimand, and valuing our jobs, we left well enough alone. Years later, that priest/music director’s name was in the Daily News as a priest who had been transferred from parish to parish because of child molestation accusation and charges. We were in disbelief.

But this is a M.O. the Catholic Church has used for years, time and time again, in many different parishes all over the world. It is inexcusable, deviant behavior on the part of people entrusted to lead believers, shaping their spiritual beings over lifetimes. It is an abuse of position, power and a deception, the scale of which can only be rivaled in suspense thrillers. Yet the Church not only continues to deny their actions, they vehemently chastise others. “Do as I say, not as I do”. How can even one parish priest, a pastor in charge of their parish make such a grievous decision to take in an accused/convicted child molester? Or should we look at this as “Hippie Jesus” would have – forgiveness, compassion, understanding, rehabilitation of a fallen man? Taking it one step further, if we choose to look at the actions of this pastor as compassionate, should we not, as the whole Church look at “marriage equality” with the same compassion? After all, how is it that a Church, with “Hippie Jesus” as its “front man”, if you will, can’t be all about love? That damn four letter word that has been getting men and women in trouble since Adam and Eve – LOVE!

Compassion for those who hide who they are for fear of familial shunning, societal scorn and religious ridicule – when will the Church recognize the fact that many men have grown up, victims of the Church’s scandalous behavior and have floundered as adults, some even choosing suicide as an option to relieve their pain? When will the Church who professes compassion, concern and love realize that many people in the LGBT community want to be good Catholics but have nowhere to turn within the Church only to leave an institution they grew up in and for some, choosing to end their own lives because the pain and shunning is too great? More and more lapsed Catholics lead to dwindling church attendance, less proselytizing on behalf of an ancient order and the contradiction just seems to create a wider and deeper chasm between the believers that are left.

Perhaps it is the word LOVE we should really invest our attention to – “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” – empathy for others brings about the highest level of love regardless of religious, political, economic, or lifestyle standing.

When push comes to shove, where do you stand on the “Empathy Scale”? Think about your faults and what criticism and shunning you may face as a result of your beliefs – think about being the minority when it comes to that position. Perhaps then, you can truly understand what being human is all about.

Go to Top