Writers are ordinarily compassionate and empathetic people–for the most part, when writing any type of fiction, they have to be to realistically portray the inner character of their story people. But what many, including writers, often don’t consciously realize is that it is the tapping of their own emotions that leads them to write the specific stories they write.
An example. Many watched (American) Idol Gives Back last night. There were moving (read that heart-wrenching and heart-warming) segments aired during the show. I would love to take an informal poll on how many people watched and managed to view the entire program without tearing up at least once. I would love to know how many writers watched the program and how often they teared up.
My guess is that the writers doubled the national average.
It isn’t that writers care more, are more compassionate or more concerned than the average human being. It is that writers are more accustomed to expressing empathy quickly, fully and without restraint.
The reason for that is this connection is the way in which we and our characters bond with our readers. We feel to impart feeling into the characters. And the characters feeling invokes feeling in the readers.
This morning when my daughter arrived with the baby (Hubby and I take care of her while Mom teaches school). She teaches kindergarten, so she’s especially sensitive to children and their needs in the way writers are sensitive; perhaps more so. (Let’s face it, neither educators nor writers are in it for the money.) Anyway, my daughter and I were discussing last night’s fundraiser. Our reactions were interesting.
We both were thrilled that Idol raised 30 million in two hours. We both felt an enormous desire to do all we could to help. We both donated. We both cried often at seeing so many doing so much suffering. We both loved Carrie Underwood’s song and her gentle touch with the children in Africa. The hugs and snuggles and tender touches.
But we had different reactions, too. One in particular.
In one segment, a mother and baby were trying to get 50 miles to a health facility to get the baby treated for malaria. (It’s curable, and the medication costs $2.) They were in a race against time, and they lost. The baby died.
My daughter wished that they hadn’t aired that segment. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she strongly empathized with the mother, having a baby of her own, and but for the grace of God . . .
I was glad that they did air that segment. It hurt and still today, it hurts. My reaction alternates between an intense clutch in the chest at the loss of a child and total outrage that the loss was needless. For $2. TWO dollars.
Maybe if the rest of us–enjoying that grace of God and spared this devastation directly–are hurt enough or outraged enough we’ll DO something about the problem. If enough of us do something, then the problem will no longer be a problem.
To have hungry, homeless kids is Africa is heartbreaking. To have them in America, where so many have so much, is despicable–and shameful.
We can’t cure all ails, but we can work together and do a lot. I’ve always been of the mindset that if we–society, I mean–fight hunger collectively, then there will be none. We might differ on a lot of things, but taking care of kids shouldn’t be among them.
After deciding on a donation last night, I went to bed praying that many, many hearts would be touched (or consciouses–whatever it takes) and we’d start doing a better job taking care of our kids. When push comes to shove, they’re all ours. I woke up this morning more resolved and went back and increased my donation and made an executive decision on my income for this year. The kids get a huge chunk.
It’s the only way I’ll be able to swallow a single bite of food and not be haunted at knowing they’re hungry. The only way I can close my eyes and not see a baby dying for $2. The only way I can meet my eyes in the mirror and not be ashamed of what I see.
www.americanidol.com is still taking donations. I’m starting a book this morning that I’m going to publish on the net strictly for donations for the kids. It’s not much, but it’s a start…