I am saddened and disturbed by some things I’ve seen recently. Anthony Bourdain of course comes to mind. He touched the lives of so many with his books and TV shows. I love how he brought people together over food with so much respect and humanity. How much pain must someone be in to see death as a better option? I hate to think. Unfortunately he is only one of many. According to https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/. 123 people A DAY die from suicide in the US.

I also found some videos that I think are appalling but unfortunately all too believable. I myself have seen steady streams of people walk by homeless people like they aren’t there. I know there are so many and you can’t help them all and you get numb from seeing it every day. But, a CHILD? This was a social experiment. They put a young girl on the street on a cold winter day with a cardboard sign. There was a steady stream of people passing. A few gave her a bit of money but the vast majority walked by without giving her as much as a glance. Who stopped? Who sat down next to her and offered help? Another homeless person.


In another experiment they put a very obviously pregnant woman on the street with a sign. She sat there for TWO HOURS while a steady stream of people passed before anyone stopped to help. Who helped? A previously homeless person.


I don’t think this would ever happen in Panama. I’ve seen an occasional beggar at the bus stop in Santiago, and probably 1/3 of the people who pass drop a coin or two in the cup. I’ve fallen off my bike or had flat tires and always, every single time, people have come to help. What has happened in the US? I myself have come across people needing help and have invariably been the only one stopping.

I’ve also talked with a lot of homeless people. If I am close enough to make eye contact I will stop. More than appreciation for any offer of help, what I felt was a sincere appreciation that I SAW them, I noticed them, I recognized that they were people. I have experienced what it’s like not to be seen, and it’s a terrible feeling

It makes me sad to think of what is going on in the US. It looks like we have no empathy. I know there are many good, caring, loving people, but there are so many people suffering alone. If they are outside of our own circle we often don’t know them, don’t see them. Our government who we hope helps our most vulnerable, it seems there is less and less help while the rich get richer and look the other way. We seem to have more and more trouble seeing the sameness in each other instead of the differences, and we seem less willing to give what we have, even if it’s only a little time and conversation.

I don’t have answers. The complexity of the problems and possible solutions are way beyond my pay grade. But, I don’t like feeling ashamed and distressed and frustrated. When I read the news or see videos like these, that is what I feel. No wonder I rarely read the news.

I was in Washington Square (New York) on my way to class one day when I came across the filming of this. There were maybe a couple dozen people watching, and she was less than 15-20 feet from me with speakers on either side of her blasting the music. It’s as powerful today as it was then.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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18 Responses to Empathy

  1. Joyce Newton says:

    Kris, I am so with you on this and I truly love the person you are!


  2. Mel Gambutti says:

    I feel ya, Kris. Living in Sarasota, FL (I know you used to) it’s very troubling to see so many homeless here. Stunning really. It has been someone improved and of course, as you knoe, the problem is always no shelters “in my back yard” So much money and so little empathy. It is noticeable in our current president, of course, in so many areas from his oush to deatroy the ACA, separation of children from mothers at borders and their incarceration and lack of facilities. Oh yes there is more. And I am crying inside, too.
    I am happy to hear empathy is in full supply in Panama. I hope and pray the U.S. finds a soul again. We have begun to research possible locations for our retirement. Being a stroke survivor (hemorrhagic about 9 years ago) a good medical center is important to us. And on the other hand, we love rural life and have experience with it in PA. So the research continues. We may choose Panama City. Thanks so much for your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember there were homeless, and Sarasota did what it could to push them out, removed park benches etc to make them less comfortable. They didn’t seem to be everywhere though. The main ones I knew were mentally ill and the whole town looked out for them. Biking from Seattle to northern CA though, they were everywhere! It was awful. And, most were older, run of bad luck, no family or safety net… I heard that story over and over and over. Yes, our current president is a force but unfortunately not for good or the welfare of the less fortunate.
      I think medical care here is better here than in the US, and it’s given with a very human touch. You might look at David, the second biggest city and source if medical care. It’s not as expensive and crazy here, and you don’t have to go far out of town to find a more rural life. We are in the north side just within the city limits so only minutes to hospitals, but the cows had gotten loose and were munching in the green fields on our way home.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Robert&Helen says:

        Well it is very clear why! The endless foreign wars to make the military industrial complex and it’s owners very rich. All of them provoked by fals flags. 21 trillion government debt, 20 trillion missing in the Pentagon. 100 plus trillion in underfunded pensions, medicare and infra structuren. Has the USA any friends left. Only 1 named Israel. Europe, Latin America, Russia, China are coming more together. The USA is like the last days of the Roman Empire.The corruption and nepotisme are enormous. I am an expat for almost 30 years, Nigeria, Spain, Caribbean, Panama and have travelled to many countries in the world. My wife and I feel free and happy in Panama.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. simplywendi says:

    great post again Kris.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sunni Morris says:

    I was shocked and very sad to hear about Anthony Bourdain. He always seemed so cheerful and gave many people voices and peaks into their culture through food and all the travel he did to remote places. These are people no one would ever think about twice, or maybe even know existed. He was a unique man and must have been in so much mental pain to take his own life. I feel he did a lot for minority people while he was here on Earth. He will be missed.

    You’re right about most people not having any empathy. This world is really in an awful state and getting worse every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Anthony Bourdain had his struggles with mental health through a lot of his life, but to sink that low, to be in that much pain, how awful for him and for all the other thousands we don’t hear about.
      It feels like we are losing our humanity when we forget those others are people just like us.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Kathleen Phillips-Hellman says:

    Kris, I think, in your heart, you know the answer. It began before 9/11 and accelerated after that. My husband and I fled our native/home state of California nearly 30 years ago. He died ten years ago and I will move to Panama as soon as our home sells. I’ve been traveling down there for three years, have all my paperwork done, and feel I’m returning to what I remember from the 50s in the US.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Kathleen Kunster says:

    Kris, you are right about what you see – and I think it’s perhaps worse than you might think- kindness, civility, a sense of community, compassion, an economy that enables most people to make enough to live on – missing. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition “a full-time worker earning the prevailing minimum wage cannot afford a modest two-bedroom rental home in any state, metropolitan area, or county in the country. A full-time minimum wage
    worker can afford a one-bedroom rental home in only 12 counties, not including Puerto Rico. In California, it takes a wage of $30.92 for a worker to afford a 2 Br apartment without spending more than 30% of one’s income.” —- I suspect you are well out of the states.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know I’m better off out of the US. It’s still my home country though, and my family lives there, and my grandchildren are growing up there. I have heard there is a direct correlation between the cost of housing and the number of homeless. Housing is crazy expensive in both the Seattle area and northern CA so it’s no wonder I see many homeless every time I’m there. That’s bad enough, but then they are treated as if they are invisible, how cruel. It could be any one of us in their shoes.
      Thank you for your comment, and thank all off you who have taken the time to write something here.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. simplywendi says:

    Hi, I have nominated you for the sunshine blogger award. If you would like to accept, please check out the link below. If not, please know that I thought of you.
    Thank you,


  8. Thank you for this post. I’m French man living in Quebec/Canada and I have really the same feeling for my country, France, and also for Quebec.

    Society is deeply ill.

    I have fight (and continue) to build a better world, more empathic, more equitable, more ecologic but it’s so hard in Europe or Canada to find enough right people, specially in politic or administration.

    Excuse me for my bad English, I don’t speak fluently.


    • Thank you for your comment. I know what you mean. Maybe we can’t find the right people, but I hope we can BE the right people and spread positive energy wherever we can, and be a positive force for change.
      No apologies for your English. It was easy to understand everything you said.


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