I have played music in some original settings over the years. I remember playing with my band 2fish[i] at Blenheim Cherry Fest on an outdoor stage. What made it unusual was the act before us were professional cloggers. They did something akin to Dutch line-dancing in colourful outfits and wooden clogs. Great to warm up an all ages crowd for a rock band.

Then there was the time that my band was the opening act at Windsor’s waterfront for an Elvis impersonator show. We are not Elvis impersonators, but somehow were asked to be on the bill. We played our set with a handful of Elvis wannabees watching from side stage.

Perhaps the concert that most made me feel like a ‘fish out of water’ was my solo 1983 appearance at Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville. I sang and played original music to 200 deaf students. I did not need a sound system. I did try to hop around more than I usually would.

An interpreter listened to me and signed the lyrics. (At least there was an interpreter.) Until that point in my life I had not known any people that are deaf and it made me think about how much I take for granted by being able to hear.

Marsha and I had a conversation about a hypothetical crisis in which we would have to choose whether to lose our eyesight or hearing. She was insistent on keeping her vision. I was insistent on keeping my hearing. Eventually we reached a shared conclusion that the solution was to give up sight in one eye and hearing in one ear.

Those hypothetical situations of choosing the lesser of two evils are the stuff of horror movies and torture chambers. We are not usually put in the position of having to make such choices. Still, it is common to suffer physically, mentally and emotionally. If you have not experienced limitations of this kind, your time is coming. For some an accident or illness will bring limitation. For many more, age will frustrate your mobility, eyesight, hearing, continence and mental faculties.

Sometimes we may have sympathy for people who lack something, but empathy is more helpful.

Dr. Les Parrott[ii] illustrates the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is when you see someone struggling in the water and you throw a life ring to the one in trouble. You identify that they have a problem but you observe from the shore. Sympathy involves our emotions, but only limited interaction.

Empathy is when you see someone struggling in the water and you jump in to help the person get to shore. To be an empathetic person is to enter emotionally and analytically into the experience of another. Empathy leads you to actively participating.

[ii] Dr. Les Parrott, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, Zondervan Trade Books