Empathy: Is It Even Still Alive In Southern California?

kindness

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Empathy is feeling and understanding another person’s emotions. It is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and being able to emphasize with their situation.

Southern California is teeming with homeless men, women and children. It’s hard not to miss them standing on street corners asking for change. Then again, sometimes it’s easy to miss them. They are the invisible, or at least the ones we wish were invisible. Why is it so hard to look them in the eye when your car is stopped at a red light and they are holding their signs up saying “God bless”, “Anything helps”? It’s a societal guilt. We don’t want to look too closely because we might feel something we strive not to feel. A sort of sadness. THEIR sadness, THEIR desperation.

Our current mindset in this modern age is that being happy is the end-all be-all of goals. We read articles on the Top 10 Ways to “Be Happy”, numb ourselves with mindless television, and compulsively buy when we feel upset or bored. So when we see something that makes us uncomfortable, we turn away because it will interfere with the illusion of a continual happiness. This is especially true in California because of the high number of homeless.

But I’m here to inform you, empathy is not dead in Southern California. It is hidden and not always expressed publically, but it’s still here. While walking around in Long Beach, I stumbled upon a delivery boy talking with a homeless man in an alley way. He introduced himself as Robert and appeared to be making small talk. I snapped a picture and passed by. That’s all I saw. Just a glimmer of humanity in an alley. Just someone talking on the same level to another person. A simple act. There are so many organizations and 5k runs to end hunger and homelessness, but we don’t have to interact with “them”. We don’t have to look them in the eye and ask “how are you doing today?” It’s easier to dehumanize than to see them as our brother, sister, daughter, son.

Our society has seemingly put value in narcissism since we are able to post everything and only what we want others to perceive of us on the internet. If we show others that we are happy then maybe we will actually BE happy. Empathy for others does more for our personal happiness than we could ever dream. Being able to connect with another human being’s pain and suffering shifts our perspective away from our own problems and broadens our view of the world. People shy away from suffering because they are afraid that they will take on that other person’s pain. In actuality, by lifting their burden we lift our own.

Everyone has scars. If we can find a way to embrace those emotional scars and share that burden with others, we realize that we are not alone. We are never alone.

One of the most profound things I’ve realized since moving to California is that becoming homeless can happen to anyone out here. Even myself. The next profound thing I realized is that I have a wonderful support system to fall back on and am extremely lucky to live the life I live and know the people I know. Many homeless are mental ill with no support system or endured an extreme situation that landed them in their current position. Even the ones that got there with drugs or crime might have endured traumas in their life that turned into bad choices. Feel gratitude for your life and try not to judge so harshly another person’s experiences.

Find courage to show your empathy and know that this kindness converts directly to the happiness you seek. The more love you show the world the more you feel it for and in yourself.

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Under the Trees: 5 Reasons Why Being In Nature Cures All Bad Days!

Mountain glory

“A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts. And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are far-reaching.” – Swami Sivananda
Now I had the luxury of growing up in Colorado where being in nature kind of just happens when you walk out your door. In California, it can be a bit different depending on where you are living. You might actually have to make an effort to find a little more greenery. But here are 5 reasons why you should make that effort!
1) It can relax your nerves and calm your spirit. Even a “city-slicker” can experience the frustrations of living in a city once in a while. If you truly open yourself up to what nature has to offer you can find an inner calm. Your auditory senses are given a little break from being turned on constantly to a different kind of smell, sound, and view.
2) Mountain activities like hiking, biking and skiing/snowboarding provide exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. Go with a group of friends or go by yourself, these activities work out your limbs in the best of ways! You won’t even realize how much you’re actually doing because of how much fun you’re having…until the next day of course when you’re too sore to get out of bed. If mountains aren’t your thing, get to the desert and ride a quad!
3) It puts things in perspective. Had a bad day? Work/ school got you down? Boyfriend or girlfriend driving you crazy? Step out into the great outdoors. Looking out into an incredible view can change your outlook on things. Not only is our world a massive place (although with social media it can feel like a small space at times), feeling ourselves in a physically larger space allows us to remember that we are just tiny creatures on a giant world floating in a colossal universe. When we are able to break free of our ever-shrinking technology-laden world, we remember that life is bigger than that fight we had with someone, or that work assignment we messed up on. Being in a larger space give us perspective.
4) We connect better with people in nature! This one might be obvious. But when there is no electrical outlets and the nearest cell tower is too far to get the best signal, we tend to put our phones and ipads down and focus on what is in front of us. When we focus on the people around us, we listen to them more and insert ourselves into the growth of a relationship.
5) Our self worth increases. When you put into play all of the above reasons we find that those little stressors and worries just don’t matter. When we feel good we do good for ourselves and others which creates a cycle of self worth.
So find your perfect spot on the mountain and live it up!

Under the Responsibility: Carrying the Weight of the Ocean

baby seal 2

There is no Sarah Mclachlan song playing here. No one telling you to donate to the cause. Just a genuine urging to keep our oceans alive and thriving with simple acts.

Donating money to a cause is admirable but there are also simpler and more probable ways most people will take action. And people feel astoundingly better and more certain by having a hands-on effect on something.

Here are a few of those simple things:

  •  If you see a sick seal, whale, bird or other sea animal you can call a local Marine Animal Rescue Center. These animals are usually alone, sluggish, and (in the case of seals) will have patchy fur and wrinkled skin from hunger.

Depending on where you are in California, you can google Marine Animal Rescue Centers and find them throughout the state. If you are in Orange County/Los Angeles area call the Pacific Marine Animal Center at 949-494-3050 or Marine Animal Rescue at 310-455-2729.

There has been an influx of sick baby seals on the Southern California shores that has overwhelmed non-profit animal rescues for years. Scientists are still trying to figure out why so many seals are going hungry and then isolating themselves on our shores. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure it out. Overfishing in our seas is having tremendous consequences on sea life.

  • Tie up and seal your food that you bring to the beach to prevent seagull attacks!

Now this may seem cute and funny when you see it, but it’s actually neither. Our food is barely good enough for us, let alone a wild animal. A bird does not digest the same way we do and this causes problems for them whether you choose to turn a blind eye or not. These animals become dependent on us for their next unnourishing meal. So just remember to watch your food and seal it up!

  • If you see glass or trash on the beach, take a second to pick it up and walk the 100-200 yards to the trash cans provided on the beach.

There are usually trashcans near the boardwalks. 2 minutes of your time saves the year or more of floating that piece of trash does in our ocean. Not to mention, no one likes stepping on glass! If you are visiting from out of state, this does not exempt you from caring because you can leave and forget it. Just remember everything comes back around. It’s a cycle of nature that effects everything and everyone.

If you would like to volunteer to clean up our beaches, visit the California Coastal Commission for their California Coastal Clean Up Day Saturday, September 19, 2015.

So, simple right?! These are just a minimum of things we can do to help out with very little effort. Think about what the ocean has given you. Food, beautiful and inspiring scenery, maybe a fun weekend or vacation. Give back to the ocean and the creatures in it! Even if it’s not monetary, we all can give back in a small way.