Losing Empathy

After a week of being sick, with what I would describe as shards of glass and tiny knives stuck in my tonsils, I informed my family that we would all be going to the clinic. None of us were getting any better and I was tired of drinking tea and eating soup.

I missed tasting chocolate.

We crammed my daughters Dora travel case full of books, toys, puzzles and treats, charged the phone to 100%, and got ready to wait in a germ filled room with 50 other sickies.

The wait was long but not excruciating, we had stories to read, snacks to eat, and pamphlets with bums on them to talk about.

And there were other children there; some too sick to play, some upset because of discomfort, and others just bored.


One little girl in particular sat calmly with her mom; she played peek-a-boo with our daughter while her mom text on her phone and her dad tended to her baby sister. Our daughter waved at her and asked questions about why she was sick, compared their cups, and asked about “her baby.”

She was a sweet girl. Calm and quite.

And it was apparent she wasn’t feeling well.

After what seemed like hours of sitting in quiet we all heard a thud, it was then that the little girls boot fell off and she unleashed. The sweet girl who had been sitting flushed and tired on her mom’s lap became a screaming, angry toddler.

And that boot was NOT going back on.

Her, until then, quiet father tried to reason with her while her mother tried desperately to secure it back onto her tiny foot.

Why can’t she just take her boot off?

I looked to Brian in desperation and saw the “don’t meddle” look staring back at me.

The little girls’ father held her close and tried to reason with her, he rocked her back and forth, asking her to please put her boot on. His exhaustion was apparent.

He continued to focus on her footwear when his little girl began to thrash on the floor.

Her face was fevered, she was tired, wasn’t feeling well, and she was frustrated.

I could relate to these parents and wanted so badly to help them.

Dismissing my husband’s warning glances I started to get up to see if there was anything I could do, when suddenly, the receptionist at the desk came out and stood over top of the little girl.

Staring directly at the mother she demanded the tiny toddler stop banging.

It was distracting her.

The room fell silent.

My entire body felt hot.

The receptionist couldn’t concentrate?

I looked at my husband and his wide open mouth.

We stared at each other for what seemed like forever trying to piece together what had just happened. Why was no one helping this family? How come they were all sitting idly by while a mother struggled with her sick child?

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been that mother.

My husband squeezed my hands and mouthed the words, “go.”

I stood up and walked quickly to the receptionist’s window as the mother gathered her children’s things.

As I waited for my turn I could see her frazzled face, her very sick daughter, and her embarrassment. I turned towards her and told her that the receptionist was wrong to say those things, that WE didn’t feel that way.

When the receptionist asked me what I needed I spoke up… I spoke out.

I let her know that her words to the mother were inappropriate, that the little girl was sick and that’s why she was there. Telling a mother to keep her child quiet in a Clinic was ridiculous, she was just a little girl! I suggested that if the noise was bothering her she should plug her ears and informed her that I was appalled by her behaviour.

She did nothing but agree.

But the mother had left.

As parents, friends, by-standers, community members, and just people in general it is so important that we learn to stand up for one another. Not ONE person spoke up when this woman was brought down by the receptionist.

Understanding when another person is struggling is called empathy; have we lost that?

My heart hurts for that mother and for her little girl who may not have gotten care because of a heartless receptionist who should be putting care first, but did not.

Build each other up, don’t tear each other down. If you see injustice, insult, bullying, and/or someone struggling help them.

It won’t hurt you.

And it will help them.



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26 Responses to Losing Empathy
  1. Leigh Ann
    January 27, 2013 | 10:08 pm

    I’m heartbroken that the woman left with her sick child. But I’m so proud of you for speaking up.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:59 pm

      Thank you sweet friend
      Love you big time

  2. Greta
    January 27, 2013 | 10:12 pm

    You were so right to say something, but I can’t blame that mother for leaving. I hope her little girl is better.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:58 pm

      I don’t blame her either. The frustration, embarrassment, and exhaustion was so much to handle.

  3. wendy
    January 27, 2013 | 10:21 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes, that poor mom. We have been in her shoes before. You are absolutely right, what is wrong with people? Thanks for the reminder to speak up.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:57 pm

      I know there were other moms in that room. I couldn’t imagine not saying something, they all know how it feels.
      Thanks Wendy xo

  4. Coffee Lovin' Mom
    January 27, 2013 | 10:30 pm

    Kudos for sticking up for a fellow mom! I don’t understand how people can work in an office like that without empathy. My cousin was treated like that by a nurse for crying and she’s an adult – who was sick for two weeks and at her wits end. She was able to fill out feedback cards on the people she dealt with, making sure she applauded the ones that were nice. I applaud you for being the nice one..

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:56 pm

      I also don’t understand how anyone can work in a clinic and not have empathy or care for others. It’s almost a prerequisite for the job.

  5. Jessica
    January 27, 2013 | 10:33 pm

    So proud of you for speaking up, that poor mom.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:50 pm

      thank you Jessica! I wish more moms would stand up for one another

  6. tracy@sellabitmum
    January 27, 2013 | 10:47 pm

    Oh I am just bawling. So glad you said something. xo

  7. Nic
    January 28, 2013 | 12:38 am

    Wonderful said and good for you! I’m proud of you!!!

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:49 pm

      Thanks Nic! xo

  8. Alison
    January 28, 2013 | 2:09 am

    I will always want you in my corner.
    That poor mother and her daughter. I hope they found care in a better, more caring environment.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:49 pm

      You’re so sweet. thank you for saying that.
      I also hope they found care elsewhere.

  9. Kimberly
    January 28, 2013 | 7:51 am

    I’m proud of you for speaking up. My heart breaks for that poor mom and her sick daughter.

  10. Galit Breen
    January 28, 2013 | 8:00 am

    So proud of you for standing up for that mother. My goodness we all need more of that in our lives.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:45 pm

      thank you Galit..I really hope that some of those people in the room will stand up for someone next time they encounter that.

  11. christina
    January 28, 2013 | 8:51 am

    wow. good for you for standing and saying something. it really saddens me how self absorbed some people can be.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:43 pm

      I think people are so nervous to speak up because of others’ reactions that they stay silent… but it only takes one. I’m saddened too.

  12. Jenn@Fox in the City
    January 28, 2013 | 9:35 am

    Well done Leighann! We all need to stop and realize that every other person out there has feelings that need to be respected and we as a society need to start showing compassion again.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 12:37 pm

      Thank you so much Jen, I agree with you, society has lost something and are becoming jaded.

  13. TT
    January 28, 2013 | 3:56 pm

    I took Medical office assistant 15 yrs ago, yes a very long time ago, we were informed that if there was a child who was very sick of “disruptive” that they shall be the NEXT patient. No need to think about, that’s what should have happened, I know if I was the next one to be seen I would have glad let that family go ahead of me.

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 4:03 pm

      this is why I love you. I wish that she had been taught your compassion… but I don’t think they teach that in school.. it’s learned through love

  14. Lisa Henderson
    January 28, 2013 | 6:09 pm

    Good For You!!!!!

    • multitaskingmumma
      January 28, 2013 | 7:08 pm

      Thank you so much Lisa!!

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