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Thankful for Glimmers of Empathy

By Cassie McClure- It was last fall when I saw the young woman slumped against the back end of the car. I was driving down Solano Drive in the early evening. Dusk had just passed, and it was growing colder. I did a double take at her lack of clothing and how she wasn’t moving. My mom and the kids were in the car. I slowed and signaled to make a U-turn.

photo by Belinda Fewings

My mom asked what was wrong, and I told her tersely that there was a girl who needed help. I pulled into one of the apartment’s other parking spots and left the car running. My mom warned me to be careful. She’s no interventionist, but somehow, that’s not something I inherited.

I called out to the girl from about four feet away. Was she OK? She grunted. She was on her knees, hair in her face and leaning against the tail end of the car.

I’m no real hero. I knew the apartments in that area didn’t have the best reputation; it could be an illness, or it could be a belligerent drunk revived after a quick nap. I couldn’t take that chance, not with my kids in the car.

I dialed 911 and then got lucky when a cop drove by and I waved him down. He did a U-turn and pulled up in front of us. He got out plastic gloves and asked if I knew her. After I said no, I faded into the background, inching toward my car as he knelt down to examine her and ask questions. I got back in the car and pulled away, the lights of the police car lighting up the inside of my car.

“How did you even see her?” my mom asked when I got back in the car. I was still shivering a bit from the chill, and from the unusual rush of adrenaline. I shrugged and read more into her question than she said.

“I just thought that if it had been my daughter, I would have wanted someone to stop for her,” I replied.

As much as we have commercialized nearly all of our holidays, I’ve been stewing hard on gratitude the last few weeks. One of the things I’m thankful for is when society shows glimmers of empathy — something that so many of us feel gets lost nowadays. In that moment, all I wanted was to be a short glimmer of empathy regardless of whether someone may “deserve” it.

It’s uncomfortable to put yourself in the shoes of another, especially when the force of vitriol hurled your way might even be dangerous. It might mean walking in discomfort. It might mean taking a risk. It might mean taking a U-turn in your life.

And it might not mean a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it’s only our society to improve. I agree with Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, who said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put all together that overwhelm the world.”

Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at

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