Somehow, I feel responsible for humanity.

When I see someone who is down on their luck, having a bad day, or the victim of unfortunate circumstances, I can’t help but feel personally responsible. It goes beyond sympathy; it feels more like a pain of my own that I have to bear. What should I do to help them? How can I make them feel better? These questions often jump into my mind immediately, but that’s ridiculous most of the time because many people I see on a college campus are complete strangers. So usually I smile and keep to my own business. Because what can I do?

This isn’t a question I can answer. I always feel like there’s something more I should be doing, some part of me that I should be giving to them whether advice, company or something material to help them. I don’t know why my immediate reaction is to think every person deserves help.  

Similarly, it’s hard for me to go into those chain pet stores and walk past the row of sad dogs, waiting to get adopted. They probably will find homes, or most of them will. There will always be that one old dog, sitting in the corner, just slightly less puppyish than all his neighbors. I’ve cried walking past this scene before, because I know he’ll sit there for a long time before someone else with my mindset comes along. I feel it’s my duty to help out animals because they are less fortunate than I am, and I have the power to help them. And it’s so difficult at this point in my life because right now, I don’t have the means to home any of them.

I think genuine generosity is the most important character trait, and I try to always be a kind person. This is excepted by people who I have reason to dislike or mistrust. My first reaction is one of trust, openness and potential. Only after many bad experiences will that image be tarnished.

During my soccer team’s last game, we were beating them badly at halftime. Our goalie is an amazing player and she was itching to score a goal herself, but she had only touched the ball once the whole game. I am no goalie–I’ve stood in during practices, but I’ve never had training. But she was so bored back there in the goal, so I volunteered to stand in the goal for the second half and sure enough–she scored. I was really nervous to play in goal because I’m not very good at catching and I wear glasses, but seeing her so happy to be on the field made me sure of my decision.

So what am I getting at with all this “be a nice person” stuff? I don’t know why I feel so deeply connected with the emotions and well-being of humanity as a whole, but I can’t seem to separate my own happiness from everyone else’s. I don’t know if this means I should be pursuing a career related to this, or if I’m cut out for volunteer work, or if this is a normal thing. And I’m still figuring out what the best way to actually help people is. It’s scary sometimes because I’m introverted and I don’t necessarily like talking to strangers. And it’s overwhelming to think of all the needs of all the people all over the world. Many are things I can never help with–needing money, needing health, needing love–but for some reason I still feel drawn to seek out problems and fix them.

At this point in my life, I’m not the best at solving problems. I’m a great listener and I can give good advice on a few topics. I know how to make people feel like their thoughts matter and they’re being heard. But I don’t know any actions to take to help people out. And often, all I can do with words is give reassurance, not solutions. I don’t know where I will learn these skills that I’m lacking, but I am so affected by the human condition of everyone around me that I know I’ll pick it up at some point.