~The Year is 1979~
I use Kati
as an example of the differences between Pity, Sympathy,
and Empathy. Here is her story...
In 1979, I travelled to San Francisco,
to do an article on Homosexuality
as a Socio-Economic Phenomenon. Each morning,
I woke early and walked
the wondrous streets, chit-chatting with
shop-keepers and the other
friendly people I met. Then, we met....she
was a filthy, sore-infested
Bag-Woman, begging for money. I said
no, I would not give her money.
Before she could swear at me, I said "But,
I WILL take you to
breakfast". There was a nearby bagel and
pastry restaurant, so we went
in there (though the staff was undoubtedly
pissed). I asked her name,
she stuttered and told me it was Kati...with
an "i". Now, up to this
point, I had pitied the Homeless. I was
in San Fran for 10 days. I told
Kati that I would buy her breakfast every
morning on one
condition...that she had to tell me her
The doors of sympathy were opened.
For ten days, Kati was there at 6:00AM on
We had breakfast and watched the people in
the streets. She liked being
on the inside of the glass windows. Her
husband had been a riverboat
captain on the Sacramento River Delta (a
large network of canals north
of here). When the highways were built,
he found himself and his family
with no money. His spirit, being broken,
lead him to an early death.
Kati's three children abandoned her after
not too many years. Kati would
laugh about the "old days". She became animated
and vocal...telling me
her stories. Being a widow with no children
to support her, she found
herself without a home and on the streets.
She was not mentally ill,
yet. You see, the worst degradation of the
human spirit is to be
ignored. People look
THROUGH you, never AT you. It was as if she didn't
exist. Her psychosis
had begun. I was the only person she had met who
engaged her and
wanted to hear her speak. At the end of the ten days, I
medical kits. I took her to one of the city's fountains and
washed her feet
and sores. I then treated them and bandaged them for
her. I gave her
the other kit that she could carry in her shopping cart,
so that the sores would heal.
I transferred to San Francisco State University
that Autumn because of
their Egyptology degree and program. On
a fluke, I went to the
restaurant one early morning. There was
Kati. I smiled and greeted her.
She became very agitated because I knew
her name and she had no idea
who the hell I was. She became very upset
as I tried to speak with
her...telling me to leave her the f*ck alone.
As a final comment, I
asked her why she was in front of THAT restaurant.
She said she liked the view and then she
I also have a degree in Urban Sociology.
As a natural, I spent the one
month Christmas vacation, doing another
I became homeless for the month.
I DID keep a room in a flop-house with no
heat, little lighting
and a bathroom that would scare fish.
I kept a journal at night. I, too,
experienced what it was like to be
"invisible" and detested. The police
harassment, the disgusted looks, the degradation...all
I empathized with the plight of the Homeless.
I noticed after a couple of
weeks that I was becoming severely depressed
and lonely. By the end, I
was scaring the heck out of myself, wondering
if I could function in
"normal" society again. It took another
month before I felt like myself
again....I SHOULD have seen a Therapist,
but didn't as I did do this
study on my own.
At my former Church, they were asked to host
a number of Homeless
families as one of the Shelters closed.
The congregation didn't want to
do it, but felt pressured. They were afraid
and wondered what they
should tell the Homeless. I took over the
meeting at that point and told
them in ways that could not be misunderstood..."What
you do is SHUT UP.
You have nothing to say that they want to
hear...try listening to them
this time". It went over quite well. A few
folks were pissed at me for
being so "real" about the subject.
As a personal obligation, I worked in the
kitchens of a Shelter (only my
own illness keeps me from doing it today).
I gave them the damn best
meals I could on our budget. They knew that
and gravitated to me
You see, pity is cheap (imo), sympathy is
almost there, BUT empathy will
last forever. You can't undo empathy, no
matter hard you may try.
I am sure Kati is dead,
so I dedicate this story to her and her
~This page is dedicated to Kati~
and to Will who passed from HIV.
I treasured this letter he wrote me.
I still do.
PLEASE CLICK ON THE BUTTON BELOW:
This is "Part 2"-It is Wills'
"Viewpoint on "LIFE" from his front Porch.
You must read this awesome writing of his!
Girl Courtesy of:
Would the artist who owns the MUTED Backgrounds
PLEASE WRITE ME at the LINK BELOW!!
I wish to give
PROPER CREDITS for your GRAPHICS!!