Vulnerable – From the Latin, vulnerare – to wound; From the Latin, vulnus – wound
“Susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm; person, or persons in need of special care, support or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse and neglect.”
It has been said that to understand a person “It is necessary to first walk around in their shoes.” That little pearl of wisdom is the key to empathy.
Sometimes simply imagining we are someone else and in their situation, has to be enough. But the older I get, and the more I experience, the more I realize that to truly know others and their situation, one has to actually become them.
For decades I ministered to the grieving and tried to understand and sympathize with their situation by imagining that I could be the one grieving.
But no one close to me like a child, a spouse or a parent had died. Then my wife died and my parents died.
I was the one left grieving, and for the first time in my life I truly understood those who grieved.
For decades I ministered to the elderly and even was fortunate enough to have had parents who lived into their nineties. Again, to understand and empathize with where my parents found themselves to be in life with all the issues that surrounded it, I tried to imagine being old.
Well, now that I have turned 66 and am eligible to receive Social Security I no longer am middle aged but rather officially am a “senior citizen”. Now each day I am becoming aware of the health and economic issues associated with that designation.
Now, the grieving and the elderly are two of the more vulnerable groups of our population. More susceptible, according to definition, “to emotional attack or harm, and therefore more in need of special care, support, and protection.”
This has never been more true than in the Coronavirus pandemic. Doctors tell us that the group that most susceptible to getting sick from the virus are the elderly, that their immune system is most compromised because of their age, they are the least likely to recover from the virus if they get it and the most likely to die.
If we are empathetic, we imagine being old ourselves so we can at least sympathize with those who are.
But now that I actually am a senior citizen who is one of those most vulnerable to the Coronavirus, I understand more of the fear associated with it, the self care needed to protect myself and the “care, support and protection” others in my group need, especially those who are 80+, for they are the ones who are dying from the virus.
To truly understand, we must actually be the ones we are trying to understand. But sometimes, even just imagining walking around in their shoes will have to be enough.
Not one of us ever wants to be one of “the vulnerable ones”. When we become one, we wish we “weren’t part of the club”. But it helps us to finally understand.
Whether we find ourselves on the outside or on the inside of the Coronavirus virus, let us all commit ourselves to remembering the most vulnerable among us and offering them our “special care, support, and protection.”