A friend of mine said to me the other day: “I have empathy for the 43 year-old with two teenage girls dying of ovarian cancer, and the contracted 83 year-old guy with Alzheimer’s who’s breaking the heart of his wife, but for this” — she waved her arms towards the usual waiting room crowd of three month abdo pain and r/o H1n1 —-”today, I have no empathy. None, nada, rien. I’ve run out altogether.”
She paused to consider a minute, and adjusted her Littman slung over one blue-scrubbed shoulder, her lips pursed thoughtfully. “No wait,” she said. “I have fake empathy for those people. I save the real empathy for people who need it.”
I looked her in the eye and nodded with understanding. After weeks of H1N1 hell I could empathize. With real empathy, not the ersatz stuff.