Cheese and Compassion

Food for Thought

This year, I’ve been helping a nonprofit of psychotherapists organize their webinars every month. I find them fascinating because they host a wide range of speakers in different areas of psychotherapy.

A month before the webinar, @ruthcohnmft a therapist in San Francisco, told me that she was not tech-savvy and needed help with her presentation. Therapists, after all, are people people, so I would imagine that there aren’t many tech-savvy therapists. A week before the webinar, I arranged a rehearsal with her to go over the technical details.

I didn’t grow up with computers, but I think God had designed my brain for them in advance. The famous autistic scientist Temple Grandin claims she can sense how animals feel. Well, I’m like that with computers.

But I don’t always enjoy technical support. Most people take for granted that their computers work, so when they don’t work, they are frustrated or angry. Ruth was exceptionally appreciative of my help and curious to know who I was. I told her that I like blogging. It turns out she likes blogging too. She asked me to put her on my email list and sent me a link to the website she likes about creative nonfiction.

During her webinar, she kept mentioning that she loves making cheese. She even had a photo of her making cheese in her presentation. Seemingly irrelevant personal details are what I often remember about people, and I don’t think I’m alone.

After the successful webinar about the trauma of childhood neglect, she asked for my mailing address. Today, I got a box with three different kinds of cheese and a big loaf of bread. I was shocked. I see that the shipping fee alone was $82.70, and it’s clear from the packaging that she often shares her cheese with people.

I’ve noticed that empathetic people can be rude or inconsiderate if they are not in front of you because empathy requires proximity to function. What works regardless of distance is compassion, which is something we develop through experience. It’s rare to come across someone who is both empathetic and compassionate, especially to the degree Ruth is. I can taste those secret ingredients in her bread and cheese.