Just Kidding! Please, don’t.
Today I should be writing an update about my fund raising campaign because I have 9 days left to reach my goal but instead I’d like to address a huge misconception of my purpose in starting a social enterprise to help the rural poor. And that is the difference between empathy and sympathy.
Empathy is having the ability to understand and share feelings with another person which is an essential step to then being compassionate.
Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else’s misfortune. Pitying them.
This comes to mind because I’ve been receiving endless messages (in relation to my project) similar to these; “Oh Aimi, you are such a GOOD person. You’re like Mother Theresa. You are doing such a great thing” You’re out there, saving the world!” and so on.
So, I should be flattered right? No. In fact, it frightens me.
Why? Because we live in a world full cynicism and sarcasm which makes it difficult for young people to cultivate ideas for greater good. How do I know? Because since I’ve begun this journey I’m constantly battling with these life sucking cynics who pity my idealism. Then, on the other spectrum I get so much praise that I don’t feel deserving of because in retrospect; this is a small initiative. There are so many amazing people doing things with greater impact but this is my start. Such praise tells me that more young people need to think about change making too!
Secondly, I am no different than the average twenty four year old gal. I just graduated college, needed to do something with my life but wanted to do something different. I still (kinda) have a social life, I go out, I party, I hang with friends, I have hobbies and enjoy most of the same things as anyone else my age. But ever since I launched my campaign and shed some light onto social entrepreneurship and the lives of the rural poor; Ive been getting these very thoughtful but absurd messages of me being this heroic person.
Yes, I am fascinated about social enterprise so I wanted to start one; to learn.
Yes, I feel good being able to help someone else along the way; don’t you?
Yes, I am generally an optimistic person; because it’s much more enjoyable to be around uplifting spirits, ya?
Yes, I like to be good and I like to be honest; I think you do too.
I think some people have a misunderstanding of my business, maybe even you. You see that I am trying to help rural artisans and naturally feel sympathetic towards these “poor” (maybe even helpless) people. But I want to clarify that I do not see them this way which is why I stress the importance of telling their stories. Most people living in poverty want nothing more but to pull themselves out; with dignity. They are often very intelligent, charismatic and hard working people who want to work in order to provide for their families and communities.
Just like you and I; they want a purpose in life.
Sure, they may not have some of the luxuries such as nice cars, clothes and other unnecessary “things” we may possess but that’s not what they want. They want to put food on the table for their families, they want to give their children an education, they want to feel safe in their homes, have access to clean water, light and resources to better their living standards.
In my case; as the social entrepreneur I saw that I can try to help a small amount of people who live in developing communities by bringing their products to the wider world. In return, I get to fulfill my aspirations of being an entrepreneur. They get to have consistent work producing textiles to raise their standard of living. And for the consumer, they get unique, handmade products that are high quality.
So, everyone benefits. There is no pity involved.
It’s important for me to make this clear because as humans, no one truly enjoys sympathy. We don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us right? Okay, so there are some people that sulk in self-pity but really, it doesn’t do any good. However, most of us know that sympathy does not feel good. When times are hard, we want empathy; we want someone who can listen, share their understanding and compassionately help us if they can. Well for the people who live in extreme poverty, they are no different; they don’t want your pity and they don’t want your money. They want to learn how to pull themselves out of poverty and be self reliant. So, let’s help them!
Oh, and for you cynics who probably didn’t get offended by my comment above; I want to say that I am young, I am sometimes naive and I am not entirely against cynicism but I believe there needs to be a balance in the society as a whole in order to nurture young minds and their ideas to do good!
A suiting quote to leave you with.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. –Ralph Waldo Emerson