long with comfy couches, a chair, bookshelf, and filing cabinet, tissues are a staple in my office. It’s a given that at some point in any counselling session, tears will swell and fall down the cheeks of clients as they recall painful or difficult memories.

More than words can say

As a psychologist, I often find myself transfixed on the faces of strangers around me. On one particular occasion, I was standing in front of a seated passenger whose eyes appeared swollen. Along the way she began to cry, silently. Embarrassed, she hurriedly wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. Without hesitation I reached into my purse and handed her a small packet of tissues. At first she hesitated, perhaps not used to random acts of kindness from a stranger, and then a smile spread across her ruddy cheeks. She reached for the packet and thanked me with the nod of her head. We didn’t speak during what was left of the journey to her destination, but much more than words were exchanged in that short time. My heart swelled with compassion for another human being whose sorrow was obviously so deep she could not contain it. And she, I hope, was touched that someone had recognized her pain and reached out to her in a way that perhaps more than words could say.

Connection is key

Empathy is one of the key characteristics of character building. Finding ways to reach out to others in small, unexpected ways — such as paying or contributing towards someone’s meal in a cafeteria line up — shows you care. Doing so allows you to personally experience the intrinsic gift that comes along with spreading warmth in a sometimes seemingly disconnected world.