Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sympathy quotient

Conversations during the first part of last week were an interesting experience. I wanted to talk about the damage on my property and our loss of trees, and about the downed trees in our neighborhood. This elicited a lot of sympathy from people in unaffected areas - both far away (like the national claims office for our insurance; our mortgage company) and nearby (my mother in law and rabbi).

If I brought up the subject to people who were affected, I was regaled with tales of going three days without running water (no electricity to run their well), trees on cars, people maybe without property damage but a half dozen mature trees downed in their yard and requiring removal. One member of our congregation had no damage with this storm: when I mentioned the tree on our house (it broke off the eaves), he related his experience with a tree taking out his porch and kitchen ten years ago.

Not knowing who was affected and who was not, it was kind of jolting to go into a conversation expecting to receive sympathy and ending up being on the giving end. My outlook changed based on how recent conversations went: having people feel sorry for me narrowed my focus to my own problems. Talking with people significantly worse off than myself really steered my thoughts towards others.

I hadn't realized how significantly my social interactions shaped my views.

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