My Mother often used to quip the popular proverb “Fellow feeling makes one wondrous kind.” She especially used it when we were feeling poorly after we had not given much grace or sympathy while other members of the family were ill. It came back to haunt me again this last few weeks while I have been fighting a virus which really did lay me low. Firstly my voice went and when it returned I had days of feeling so tired I was hardly off the couch. This was followed by continuous coughing and two very deaf blocked ears. I coughed so much that if it were an Olympic event I could have won a Gold Medal for Australia. For days my head felt like an inflated balloon and there were loud gushing sounds in both of my ears followed by almost excruciating intermittent pain behind my ear drums. I am now onto week four and finally really starting to feel normal. Though I still have subtitles on the TV screen which is really frustrating for someone who normally would hear a pin drop a mile away. Well Almost!
Whilst I have been giving thought to the ‘Fellow Feeling idiom’ I have wondered that maybe fellow feeling is not sympathy at all, certainly not empathy. If you only feel it when you are going through the same experience as someone else it may be quite selfish. In fact it could be self pity.”I’m so sorry for myself because I have what you had, you poor thing.”
All this deliberating at least produced some good. I recalled the words of St Paul to the Romans. “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” I have promised myself to be more genuinely caring when someone tells me they are unwell. I always feel sorry for them and pray for their recovery, but now I hope to be reminded of my recent bout of ill health and really empathize with them.
My Mum always had great compassion for others – Picture from the Launceston Examiner 1976