A profession of empathy

I recently got an e-mail from an editor thanking me for my work, and I told him the honor was all mine. The story helped vulnerable people; that’s why I got into journalism, but it may be a naive notion.

I call it naive because, in my short career, I’ve done more to make money for multi-million dollar companies than help single mothers in poverty. I’ve done more to propagate the stories of mindless celebrities than to spread the stories of vulnerable children. It only got worse when I learned some technical skills, because there were more things I could do to make someone money.

People have said this is how the real world works. The real world requires us to think about money and to play to the crowds, and sure that makes sense.

The amazing thing about human beings is that we aren’t just happy as individuals. When the people we love are in pain, we feel their agony. When the children in our community go hungry, we feel the pit in our stomachs. I can’t say with any certainty where this incredible trait comes from, but we call it empathy.

I fell in love with journalism because I thought it was the profession in which I could exercise the most empathy. It was a job in which I could feel the joy and pain of those around me. Many days, that is not true for me. Some days it is, and I hold close those days.

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