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A Sense Of Universal Pity
by [?]

Nearly everybody can “feel sorry”–some, extremely so! Lots of people can exclaim, “How ghastly!” in front of a mangled corpse–and then pass shudderingly on their way with a prayer in their hearts that the dead body isn’t their own, nor one belonging to their friends and acquaintances. But very few people, it seems to me, possess what I will call a sense of universal pity, which is the intuition to know and sympathise with people “who have never had a chance”; with men and women who have never had “their little day”; with the poor, and hungry, and needy; with those whom the world condemns, and the righteous consider more worthy of censure than of pity. That is to say, while nearly everybody can sympathise with a tragedy so palpable that a dog could perceive it, there are very few people who can sympathise with the misery which lies behind a smiling face, that sorrow of the “soul” which would sooner die than be found out. They can realise the tragedy of a broken back, but they cannot realise the tragedy of a broken heart, still less of a broken spirit. And if that heart and that spirit struggle to hide their unshed tears behind a mask of cheerfulness, or bravado, or assumed–and sometimes very real–courage, they neither can perceive it nor realise it, and the well-spring of their sympathy, should it be pointed out to them, is a very faint and uncertain trickle indeed. Most of us like to take the sorrows of other people merely at their face value, and if the face be cheerful our imagination does not pierce behind that mask to take, as it were, the secret sorrow in its all-loving arms. But personally, to my mind, the easiest sorrows of all to bear are the sorrows which need not be hidden, which, maybe, cannot be hidden, and which bring all our friends and neighbours around us in one big echoing wail. The sorrows which are the real tragedies are the sorrows which we carry in our hearts every hour of our lives, which stalk beside us in our days of happy carelessness, and add to the misery of our days of woe. We do not speak of them–they are too personal for that. We could not well describe them–their history would be to tell the whole story of our lives. But we know that they are there nevertheless. And the men or women who are our intimates, if they do not perceive something of this shadow behind our smiles, can never call themselves our friends, although we may live in the same house with them and exist side by side on the most friendly terms. That is why, if we probe deep down into the hearts of most men and women, we discover that, in spite of all their gaiety and all their outward courage, inside they are very desolate, and in their hearts they are indescribably lonely.