It was a simpler time, once upon a time.
I can still remember believing that most people were reasonable, open-minded. I can remember assuming that people cared about other people.
I didn’t realize back then that empathy wasn’t universal. That life had a way of hardening us to the pains of other people. That adults could easily grow up and instead of looking for ways to make a better world, they’d instead become adept in explaining away other people’s pain. Finding reasons to blame people for their own misfortunes instead of doing anything to help them out.
Or changing the system so that fewer people fell between the cracks.
No, it was easier, more expedient to divide the world into us and them. To get very good at looking at inconvenient people as being something other than what we are.
It’s an old story, much older than me. Older than written history, really. It plays out over and over and over again.
But at a certain point in my life, it was news to me.
I can remember that once upon a time, back when I believed in people. And back when I expected that people would care about other people. Back when I believed that being selfish and insular was the exception and not the norm.
But the years have hardened me, too, haven’t they? Like they do everyone. And as I’m listening to someone lash out, once again, with thoughtless, intense cruelty, my first instinct is not to invest hours, weeks, and months into trying to talk over the issues with them. My well of patience just doesn’t run as deep as it did before.
And instead, a thought hits me, so squarely that at first I think I’ve said it aloud: “I can’t care enough for both of us.”