“The Heart of Empathy”

The motto of Wake Forest University is Pro Humanitate. Explain what Pro Humanitate means to you.

In my eyes, the essence of Pro Humanitate, “for humanity,” lies directly in the word itself – human. The most important thing to remember about ourselves is that we are all human. Infinitely diverse in our nationalities, experiences, political beliefs, and perspectives, we are all thinking, breathing, living human beings. As Shylock testifies in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same water and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” (Act III, scene i). Humanity will always share this common bond. Our struggles may not be the same, but we are struggling together. And for as long as this is true, it is our duty to relate to our fellow man. Several recent events have exemplified our capacity for relating to others. In the wake of the devastating hurricane on the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005 and the Asian tsunami in 2004, the world rose together in support for victims. Donations of money and supplies flowed to those regions, as did people eager to volunteer their time and effort to those in need. Similarly, people around the world united in sympathy for the U.S. in the aftermath of the September 11 disaster. Not all of us can volunteer our time in Asia, rescue people from burning buildings, or even send big checks to those in need. But service does not need to be on a large scale. We all have felt the happiness in an unexpected smile and experienced the warmth of a stranger’s kindness. My goal is to be that stranger. I firmly believe that the impact of giving is infinitely stronger than the effort it requires of the giver. For example, I read in the newspaper one day that there is actually a man in Boston who habitually buys two bouquets of flowers every Friday. He brings one home to his wife, and gives one to a stranger on the train. The article was submitted by a woman who had received such a bouquet. The main paid very little for the flowers, yet the woman was so touched that she bothered to write about it for all of Boston. Those simple acts inspire me, and I truly believe it is our responsibility to perform them. They require only goodness of heart and generosity of spirit – that is, active awareness and practice of the Pro Humanitate ethic.

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