HIPS: Sometimes Empathy Can (And Should) Trump Law
By Bryan Hyde
COMMENTARY -- Our society is currently seeing a growing loss of empathy – the ability to put ourselves in the other guy’s shoes.
A friend once shared an incident from early in his career as a police officer when he was called to a homeless shelter where a parking enforcement officer was preparing to have a man’s van towed away for unpaid parking tickets.
The meter maid smiled as she kept reminding the distraught man over and over, “It’s the law,” as if that were all that mattered.
My friend saw the desperation and frustration in the man’s eyes as the tow truck pulled up and realized that, under the law, the city had legal justification to take his van.
Finally, my friend and his partner had seen enough.
They ordered the tow truck driver to unhook the van, paid him out of their own pockets and then found a nearby hotel whose manager agreed to let the man safely park his van there for a few days.
These two police officers were able to put themselves in the shoes of the frustrated man and realized that they would have felt exactly as he did.
The meter maid simply saw the man and his family as objects in a game she was “winning.”
This story is a good example of how having empathy towards others can help us recognize that our noblest impulses shouldn’t be defined by legalities.
* Hyde In Plain Sight is written by KDXU personality Bryan Hyde. Catch his daily HIPS vignette at 7:50-ish every weekday morning on KDXU and listen to The Bryan Hyde Show weekends at 7 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday nights.