What living next to a demolition site taught me about empathy

christina canters empathy blogging challenge day 3

Earlier this year, I landed myself a huge voice over acting job — I’m talking in the thousands of dollars.

Big win for me, but I had a lot of work to do. I record my podcast and voice overs from home, and obviously it helps having a quiet environment in which to do it.

I was working to strict deadlines with this big VO job, and right in the midst of it — the building next door to my apartment underwent full demolition.

Now, I’m not sure if you’ve ever lived next to a demolition site, but let me tell you, the noise is unbearable.

From 7am Monday to Friday and 9am Saturdays, the demolition crew were out there jack hammering, smashing up concrete and scooping up and dropping rubble into giant skips.

BANG! CRASH! VRRRRRROOOM….BANG! CLANG! CRASH! RUMBLE RUMBLE BANG! BANG! BANG!

Imagine waking up to that. Not fun.

Not only was it disturbing my peaceful mornings, I also couldn’t do any voice over work during the day.

I had to change my work schedule so I could come home early from my co-work space and do my voice overs at night. And because my gym classes are at mostly at night, I was getting home late after the gym and working through the night, which meant my boyfriend, Aaron, was seeing less of me. So he wasn’t happy either.

Naturally, I got quite frustrated with the whole situation.

I tried to stay calm, but it’s not easy to ignore a noise that is so loud and disruptive. Plus, I felt like my rights to being able to relax in my own home had been violated.

Finally, I cracked. “I can’t stand it!! This noise! It’s so loud, I can’t deal with this any more!” I vented to Aaron, almost in tears.

He said: “Baby, I know this is hard for you and it’s messing with your voice over work, but you need to understand what’s happening here. The building being demolished was a halfway house, and for years I’ve been woken up by junkies screaming at each other at 2am, and worrying about them breaking into my place or throwing a TV through my window.”

“Everyone who lives around here has been praying that building be demolished”, he continued. “That demolition noise? It’s music to my ears.”

Wow. This was a completely new way of looking at the situation. I had only moved in with Aaron a month or so earlier, so hadn’t had to live with the bad neighbours he spoke of.

When he told me this, I realised there are always different ways of looking at a situation.

Yes, in this case I wasn’t aware that the building was a halfway house for drug addicts, but I was so focused on myself and my own problems, I didn’t stop to think about the possible positive impact it was having on others.

And when I did come to understand the positive impact it was having on Aaron, the demolition noise didn’t bother me as much — because I was grateful I didn’t have to worry about getting knifed for loose change walking home.

So next time you find yourself in a frustrating situation, try having empathy for the other people involved, and think about how it might be a positive for them.

For example, maybe the grocery store is crazy busy. You hate waiting in line, but the staff might be loving it because when it’s busy, time goes quicker.

Or your next door neighbours are pumping terrible music at 1am, but hey, at least they’re having a good time!

Or it’s raining outside and you evening plans for a jog are ruined, but there’s also plenty of people who are celebrating the rain — like the farmers, the white water rafters and little kids who prefer playing in mud rather than grass.

See what I mean?

If you can have empathy for others and understand that as sucky as your situation may be, someone else is taking a positive from it, it will help you to be less frustrated and stressed, and more grateful and fulfilled.

And if you ever find yourself living next to a demolition site, take an extended vacation 😉