Once I went to the Titanic museum, a tourist trap if there ever was one, and came to the exhibit with water that mimicked the temperature of the Atlantic in April. I put my hand in that cold water, and I knew it was supposed to make me think about how awful it was to plunge into water and freeze, and I felt nothing.
Then I kept walking though that same museum and came to the part where you were supposed to walk up different “decks” of the Titanic, each of which imitated the ship’s incline at different points of the night. This was supposed to be the fun part, and there were kids scrambling around everywhere, and I stood tilted on those wood planks and I cried. Because I knew people died on the Titanic, but I never thought about the fact that they slid off of it. I never thought about the fact that they must’ve been afraid.
I’ve been to funeral after funeral and every single time I knew I was supposed to be sad, and I never felt it. I felt disturbed. I felt unsettled by the thick smell of flowers combined with the twang of…something else. Some other smell I didn’t want to think about, ever. But I never felt sad – not really.
And sometimes I flip through People and come to the stories about murders and burning houses and seventeen-year-old girls who go missing off the coasts of strange beaches. I see the pictures of those sad-eyed mothers who started charities and foundations and scholarships and named them after their missing daughters, anything to keep saying a name they’d never yell casually across a room again. And when I read those stories on those glossy pages, I weep and I am sad. I am so, so sad.
The thing is, we are all so much more compassionate than we think we are. Our humanity runs so much deeper than we realize it does. But it never comes when you expect it, or when you think you’re supposed to feel it.
The moments when you realize that other people are just as human as you are come when you’re flipping through magazines at tourist traps.