By Reem Sharaf

What is empathy? What does it mean to be empathetic? Simply put, empathy is the ability for an individual to see, feel, and understand someone’s struggle as if it were their own. Taken one step further, it is our ability to connect with an individual even if we can’t relate to their struggles. This begs the question, have we as a society lost our ability to be empathetic to one another?

It has become the new norm these days for us to hear misfortune and disasters befalling others. Although those situations sadden us and we wish we could help, the reality is we don’t. We respond to the image of Aylan Kurdi, of Caylee Anthony but don’t react in a similar manner to the thousands of refugees stranded at barricades and the thousands of kids dying from starvation in Somalia. So many people will cry out in silence, scream in silence, and ultimately die in silence. As I write this, I think not just of those around the world but also of those in my backyard and in my community. I think of the people who struggle with depression, kids who are going to bed hungry at night, women in abusive relationships, minority groups facing bigotry, elderly people alone in nursing homes, and refugees who are lost in a land with no family, support, or stability. They are the silent strugglers who fall through the cracks. Their struggles are apparent but as a community we have the privilege to ignore them.

Why is it do we react to some disasters but not to others? Psychologists have long studied this phenomenon and have reached the conclusion that events that garner more interest and support are those that are deemed more valuable and possibly changeable. Without a doubt media sensationalizes certain events over others. This in turn makes certain cases, groups of people, or events more valuable than others. Similarly, just as we can ignore the background noise of people talking on a busy street or the sound of traffic, we have developed a sense of unconsciousness to problems that seem unsolvable. Take for instance the idea of childhood hunger. When the crisis was first publicized in the early 2000s, whole campaigns and organizations were initiated to combat this situation. This drew lots of attention, money, and support. Does childhood hunger still exist? Yes, till now 1 in 5 children in America go hungry every day. This does not mean the problem is not solvable. But, because it is unrelentingly hard to change it is ultimately not looked at with the same level of priority these days as for instance, gun violence in schools.    

What is our responsibility to those in need in our community and around the world? Our responsibility is to take action be it by voicing our concern, raising awareness, lobbying our representatives, or volunteering our time, money, and dedication to improving the lives of those in our community and around the world. God tests us in ease and tests us in hardship. Our silence and inactivity in a world full of need and injustice is not going to bring about positive change. Change begins from within and only then will it reflect around us. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” April was national volunteer month and Arab Americans around the nation spent it dedicating themselves to helping those in their community facing disparities. From soup kitchens, food drives, to tutoring, raising awareness, and sharing time and services with others, Arab Americans rose to the challenge of combating disparities.

بقلم‭ ‬ريم‭ ‬شرف

ما‭ ‬هو‭ ‬التعاطف؟‭ ‬ماذا‭ ‬يعني‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تكون‭ ‬مُتعاطفًا؟‭ ‬ببساطة‭ ‬التعاطف‭ ‬هو‭ ‬قدرة‭ ‬الفرد‭ ‬على‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يرى‭ ‬ويشعر‭ ‬ويفهم‭ ‬مُعاناة‭ ‬شخصٍ‭ ‬أخر‭ ‬كما‭ ‬لو‭ ‬كانت‭ ‬مُعاناته‭ ‬الخاصة‭. ‬وإذا‭ ‬أخذنا‭ ‬خطوةً‭ ‬أخرى‭ ‬فإنّ‭ ‬قدرتنا‭ ‬على‭ ‬التواصل‭ ‬مع‭ ‬شخصٍ‭ ‬ما‭ ‬حتى‭ ‬لو‭ ‬كنا‭ ‬غير‭ ‬قادرين‭ ‬على‭ ‬فهم‭ ‬صراعاتهم‭. ‬وهذا‭ ‬يطرح‭ ‬السؤال‭:‬‭ ‬هل‭ ‬فقدنا‭ -‬كمجتمعٍ‭- ‬قدرتنا‭ ‬على‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نكون‭ ‬مُتعاطفين‭ ‬مع‭ ‬الأخرين؟‭!‬

لقد‭ ‬أصبح‭ ‬من‭ ‬المُعتاد‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬الأيام‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نسمع‭ ‬عن‭ ‬الكوارث‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تعصف‭ ‬بالأخرين‭. ‬على‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬أن‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬الحوادث‭ ‬تصدمنا‭ ‬وتجعلنا‭ ‬نتمنى‭ ‬لو‭ ‬كان‭ ‬بإمكاننا‭ ‬المُساعدة‭ ‬ولكن‭ ‬الواقع‭ ‬أنّنا‭ ‬عكس‭ ‬ذلك‭. ‬نحن‭ ‬نستجيب‭ ‬لصورة‭ ‬إيلان‭ ‬كُردي‭ ‬كيلي‭ ‬أنطوني‭ ‬ولكن‭ ‬لا‭ ‬تكون‭ ‬تلك‭ ‬هى‭ ‬نفس‭ ‬ردة‭ ‬فعلنا‭ ‬لألاف‭ ‬اللاجئين‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬تقطعت‭ ‬بهم‭ ‬السُبل‭ ‬في‭ ‬الطُرق‭ ‬والحواجز‭ ‬ولألاف‭ ‬الأطفال‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬يموتون‭ ‬حول‭ ‬العالم‭ ‬من‭ ‬المجاعات‭ ‬في‭ ‬الصومال‭. ‬لهذا‭ ‬سوف‭ ‬يبكي‭ ‬العديد‭ ‬من‭ ‬الأشخاص‭ ‬في‭ ‬صمت‭ ‬ويصرخون‭ ‬في‭ ‬صمت‭ ‬ويموتون‭ ‬في‭ ‬نهاية‭ ‬المطاف‭ ‬في‭ ‬صمت‭. ‬وبينما‭ ‬أنا‭ ‬أكتب‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬المقالة‭ ‬فأنا‭ ‬لا‭ ‬أفكر‭ ‬فقط‭ ‬في‭ ‬من‭ ‬حول‭ ‬العالم‭ ‬ولكن‭ ‬أيضًا‭ ‬في‭ ‬الموجودين‭ ‬في‭ ‬ساحة‭ ‬بيتي‭ ‬الخلفيّة‭ ‬وفي‭ ‬مُجتمعي‭. ‬أنا‭ ‬أفكر‭ ‬في‭ ‬الأشخاص‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬يُعانون‭ ‬من‭ ‬الإكتئاب‭ ‬الأطفال‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يذهبون‭ ‬للنوم‭ ‬جوعى‭ ‬النساء‭ ‬في‭ ‬العلاقات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تستغلهم‭ ‬وتُسيء‭ ‬لهم‭ ‬الأقليّات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تواجه‭ ‬التعصب‭ ‬والمُسنين‭ ‬الجالسين‭ ‬بمفردهم‭ ‬في‭ ‬بيوت‭ ‬المُسنين‭ ‬واللاجئين‭ ‬التائهين‭ ‬في‭ ‬الأرض‭ ‬بلا‭ ‬عائلة‭ ‬أو‭ ‬دعمٍ‭ ‬أو‭ ‬استقرارٍ‭. ‬إنّهم‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬يُعانون‭ ‬في‭ ‬صمت‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬يسقطون‭ ‬من‭ ‬خلال‭ ‬الشقوق‭. ‬معاناتهم‭ ‬ظاهرةٌ‭ ‬ولكن‭ ‬–كمجتمع‭- ‬فقد‭ ‬حظينا‭ ‬بشرف‭ ‬تجاهلهم‭.‬

لماذا‭ ‬نتفاعل‭ ‬مع‭ ‬بعض‭ ‬الحوادث‭ ‬دون‭ ‬البعض‭ ‬الأخر؟‭ ‬

درس‭ ‬علماء‭ ‬النفس‭ ‬تلك‭ ‬الظاهرة‭ ‬طويلًا‭ ‬وتوصلوا‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الاستنتاج‭ ‬بأنّ‭ ‬الأحداث‭ ‬التى‭ ‬تحظى‭ ‬بمزيدٍ‭ ‬من‭ ‬الدعم‭ ‬والاهتمام‭ ‬هى‭ ‬تلك‭ ‬الأحداث‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تبدو‭ ‬أكثر‭ ‬قيمةً‭ ‬وأكثر‭ ‬قابليةٍ‭ ‬للتغيير‭. ‬بدون‭ ‬شك‭ ‬فإن‭ ‬وسائل‭ ‬الإعلام‭ ‬قادرةٌ‭ ‬على‭ ‬تضخيم‭ ‬بعض‭ ‬الأحداث‭ ‬دون‭ ‬البعض‭ ‬الأخر‭. ‬وهذا‭ ‬بدوره‭ ‬يجعل‭ ‬قضايا‭ ‬مُعينة‭ ‬مجموعاتٍ‭ ‬من‭ ‬الأفراد‭ ‬أو‭ ‬أحداث‭ ‬ما‭ ‬يجعلهم‭ ‬أكثر‭ ‬قيمةُ‭ ‬من‭ ‬الأخرين‭.‬

على‭ ‬نحو‭ ‬مُشابه‭ ‬فبمجرد‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نتجاهل‭ ‬خلفية‭ ‬الضوضاء‭ ‬التي‭ ‬يُحدثها‭ ‬الأفراد‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬يتحدثون‭ ‬في‭ ‬الشوارع‭ ‬المُزدحمة‭ ‬أو‭ ‬صوت‭ ‬المرور‭ ‬فقد‭ ‬طورّنا‭ ‬إحساسًا‭ ‬بعدم‭ ‬الوعي‭ ‬تجاه‭ ‬المشاكل‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تبدو‭ ‬غير‭ ‬قابلةٍ‭ ‬للحل‭. ‬خذ‭ ‬على‭ ‬سبيل‭ ‬المثال‭ ‬فكرة‭ ‬الجوع‭ ‬في‭ ‬مرحلة‭ ‬الطفولة‭.‬

عندما‭ ‬نُشرت‭ ‬الأزمة‭ ‬للمرة‭ ‬الأولى‭ ‬في‭ ‬أوائل‭ ‬الألفينات‭ ‬كل‭ ‬الحملات‭ ‬والمُنظمات‭ ‬انتفضت‭ ‬لمكافحة‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬الوضع‭. ‬وهذا‭ ‬جذب‭ ‬الكثير‭ ‬من‭ ‬الاهتمام‭ ‬والمال‭ ‬والدعم‭. ‬فهل‭ ‬لازال‭ ‬جوع‭ ‬الاطفال‭ ‬موجودًا؟‭ ‬نعم‭ ‬موجود‭ ‬حتى‭ ‬الآن‭ ‬واحد‭ ‬من‭ ‬كل‭ ‬خمسة‭ ‬أطفال‭ ‬أمريكيين‭ ‬يجوع‭ ‬كل‭ ‬يوم‭. ‬وهذا‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يعني‭ ‬أن‭ ‬المشكلة‭ ‬ليست‭ ‬قابلةً‭ ‬للحل‭. ‬ولكن‭ ‬لأنّه‭ ‬من‭ ‬الصعب‭ ‬تغييرها‭ ‬في‭ ‬نهاية‭ ‬المطاف‭ ‬فإنّها‭ ‬لاتبدو‭ ‬بنفس‭ ‬أولوّية‭ ‬مشاكل‭ ‬عنف‭ ‬الأسلحة‭ ‬في‭ ‬المدارس‭.‬

ما‭ ‬هي‭ ‬مسئوليتنا‭ ‬تجاه‭ ‬المُحتاجين‭ ‬في‭ ‬مُجتمعنا‭ ‬وحول‭ ‬العالم؟

مسئوليتنا‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نتخذ‭ ‬خطواتٍ‭ ‬فعليةً‭ ‬لحلها‭ ‬سواء‭ ‬بالتعبير‭ ‬عن‭ ‬قلقنا‭ ‬ونشر‭ ‬الوعي‭ ‬والضغط‭ ‬على‭ ‬المسؤولين‭ ‬أو‭ ‬التطوع‭ ‬بوقتنا‭ ‬ومالنا‭ ‬وتفانينا‭ ‬في‭ ‬تحسين‭ ‬حياة‭ ‬هؤلاء‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬يعيشون‭ ‬في‭ ‬مُجتمعنا‭ ‬وحول‭ ‬العالم‭.‬

الله‭ ‬يختبرنا‭ ‬في‭ ‬السراء‭ ‬ويختبرنا‭ ‬في‭ ‬الضراء‭. ‬صمتنا‭ ‬وخمولنا‭ ‬في‭ ‬وسط‭ ‬عالمٍ‭ ‬واقعٍ‭ ‬في‭ ‬الحاجة‭ ‬والظلم‭ ‬لن‭ ‬يجلب‭ ‬التغيير‭ ‬الإيجابي‭. ‬التغيير‭ ‬يبدأ‭ ‬من‭ ‬الداخل‭ ‬وحينها‭ ‬سوف‭ ‬ينعكس‭ ‬علينا‭. ‬د‭/‬مارتن‭ ‬لوثر‭ ‬كينج‭ ‬قال‭ ‬ذات‭ ‬مرة‭ ‬‮«‬‭ ‬الظلام‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يُمكن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يزيل‭ ‬الظلام‭ ‬فقط‭ ‬النور‭ ‬هو‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يقدر‭ ‬على‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬الكراهية‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يُمكن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تزيل‭ ‬الكراهية‭ ‬الحُب‭ ‬وحده‭ ‬هو‭ ‬القادر‭ ‬على‭ ‬فعل‭ ‬ذلك‮»‬‭. ‬شهر‭ ‬إبريل‭ ‬كان‭ ‬شهر‭ ‬المُتطوعين‭ ‬القومي‭ ‬وقضاه‭ ‬الأمريكيون‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬بمنتهى‭ ‬التفاني‭ ‬في‭ ‬مساعدة‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬يُعانون‭ ‬أزماتٍ‭ ‬في‭ ‬مُجتمعهم‭. ‬بدءًا‭ ‬من‭ ‬مطابخ‭ ‬الحساء‭ ‬ومُحركات‭ ‬الطعام‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الدروس‭ ‬الخاصة‭ ‬ونشر‭ ‬الوعي‭ ‬ومُشاركة‭ ‬الوقت‭ ‬والخدمات‭ ‬مع‭ ‬الأخرين‭. ‬الأمريكيون‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬ينهضون‭ ‬لمواجهة‭ ‬المُتمثل‭ ‬في‭ ‬مواجهة‭ ‬التفاوت‭ ‬والتباين‭.‬

نحن‭ ‬بحاجة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الاستمرار‭ ‬في‭ ‬تجربة‭ ‬ونقاش‭ ‬ومواجهة‭ ‬الصراعات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬يمر‭ ‬بها‭ ‬الآخرون‭ ‬دون‭ ‬رؤيتها‭ ‬في‭ ‬قالبٍ‭ ‬نمطيّ‭ ‬من‭ ‬القيمة‭ ‬والأهمية‭. ‬نحن‭ ‬بحاجة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نزرع‭ ‬داخل‭ ‬أنفسنا‭ ‬شعورًا‭ ‬بالوعي‭ ‬التعاطف‭ ‬والإنسانيّة‭. ‬أنا‭ ‬أدعو‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نبقى‭ ‬حكماء‭. ‬أن‭ ‬نظل‭ ‬أشخاصًا‭ ‬يخدمون‭ ‬الأخرين‭ ‬بالخير‭ ‬ويوفرون‭ ‬الدعم‭ ‬للذين‭ ‬يحتاجونه‭ ‬في‭ ‬كل‭ ‬وقتٍ‭ ‬ومهما‭ ‬يكونوا‭.‬