Tag Archives: compassion

I Want to Persuade You to Care About Other People

Illustration by J.D. Reeves

Danielle Tcholakian | Longreads | August 2017 | 23 minutes (5,681 words)


A few years ago, my middle brother and I were in Boca Raton, Fla. for Thanksgiving, visiting my mother’s parents. We’re very close with my grandparents, and one of the things I appreciate about my grandfather is that he has taken me — us — seriously for as long as I can remember. I spent every summer with him and my grandmother out on Long Island from when I was born into my teenage years, and I still can’t recall a time when I didn’t feel entitled to vigorously share my opinion with my grandfather, regardless of whether he would agree with it. When he would include me on forwarded political or (debatably) humorous e-mails with his Boca Raton pals — mostly politically conservative, Jewish guys like him — I would reply-all to any I found false or offensive in any way, lecturing men at least half a century older than me. He never yelled at me for telling off his friends and never took me off the email list for those forwards.

During the 2008 presidential election, I was in college, and I convinced him and my grandmother to vote for Barack Obama. It was the first time in our relationship, as far as I can recall, when my opinion wasn’t only given consideration, but prompted real change. I vividly remember running out to my friend’s Chicago porch after watching the vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin to call my grandpa and crow, “Who you gonna vote for now, Papa?” And I remember his good-natured laugh, his heavy sigh, his admission that yes, I was right. He was going to vote for my guy — in Florida, where it mattered.

Another thing I love about my grandfather is how he’s open-minded in a way that’s unusual among men of his generation. He’s no free-love hippie: This is a man who will drink at least one Coca-Cola a day for the rest of his life; who wears his socks pulled up so tautly, I don’t understand how they never fall; who worked hard for every dime he earned; who to this day insists Costco hot dogs are a great lunch; who plays tennis six days a week and pickle ball the seventh; and who spends a good two to three hours every day reading the paper. My grandfather lived through segregation, quietly. He is not a rabble rouser. But he has always been tickled by the rabble rouser in me, always willing to hear my liberal side out. After I worked as a journalist for Metro New York covering Mike Bloomberg as mayor of New York City, the things I learned of Bloomberg from his staff reminded me of my grandpa in that way. Make a convincing argument, and he’ll listen to it.

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It Was Like Nothing Else in My Life Up to Now

Photo by Steve Photo by (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Josh Roiland | The Digital Press | May 9th 2017 | 19 minutes (5,354 words)

This essay first appeared in Haunted by Waters: The Future of Memory and the Red River Flood of 1997 published by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. Our thanks to Josh Roiland and editor David Haeselin for allowing us to reprint this essay at Longreads.

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On a still summer night in the last year of last century an overweight woman in a wheelchair appeared, as if an apparition, under a street lamp in a parking lot on the west end of campus. I had not seen her when I pulled my car in. It was an hour till midnight, and I was covered in sand.

I’d spent the night playing volleyball and had returned home to married student housing where I was summering with a friend’s wife, while he interned in Minneapolis. She was a nurse who worked nights, and I was an English major lazing between my junior and senior year. We rarely saw each other; the only complication in our cohabitation resulted from my inability to lift the toilet seat when I got up to pee in the middle of the night. In the mornings we’d cross paths and she’d tell me, again, that it was no fun to come home and sit in piss.

That night in the dark parking lot, the woman rolled her heavy body from behind a street-lamp. “Excuse me,” she said, coming closer.

“Hi!” she said cheerfully. “Can you, uh—would you be able to give me a ride home?”

She worked at a telemarketing place near the corner of University Ave. and 42nd St. Work had let out, but the buses had stopped running, and she needed a way home. She crossed the busy intersection and wheeled into the expansive parking lot waiting for someone to help her. I was tired and dirty. I just wanted to slink into the stuffy efficiency, shower, and distract myself to sleep with PlayStation. But here she sat.

“Sure,” I said. “Sure, I’ll give you a ride home.”

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