Practicing Empathy: Jeff Foxworthy’s Backyard Bash Takeaway

By Clint Fluker, MedShare’s Faiths Act Fellow

It is said that knowledge is power. Therefore, lack of proper directions—knowledge—can leave you stranded and feeling, well, powerless. For example, on Thursday, September 22, 2011, I turned hurriedly into the church parking lot to find a parking space. To my surprise, the lot was nearly empty. This seemed rather strange considering the heavily advertised Jeff Foxworthy Backyard Bash started at 7:30pm and the hour was soon approaching. All over the city people have been looking forward to this event; a comedy benefit where all proceeds would go to eight Atlanta-based nonprofits, including MedShare.

Backyard Bash

Yet, here I was parked outside the church doors, alone, watching a couple bicker over the contents of their takeaway bag from the restaurant up the street. Perplexed, I called my partner Sana (a.k.a driving directions hotline) and explained my dilemma. She quickly confirmed my suspicions. I was two blocks away from Buckhead Church, not to be confused with Buckhead Baptist Church, where I was presently situated. She then berated me to move quickly because I had her ticket to the event.

When I finally arrived and we entered the Buckhead Church sanctuary together, Foxworthy had already started his routine about thought conundrums that continued to plague him despite turning 50. For example, colonoscopies, dietary habits of canines, Cajun accents, toilet paper discussions with his wife, and the innovative science of packing tissue boxes.

Then, the host of “Who’s Smarter than a Fifth Grader” transitioned from a routine about his personal lack of knowledge to a testimony about a potential wealth found through empathy. He discussed his recent work with the Atlanta Mission, an organization focused on ending homelessness. Foxworthy told us a story about a young man in college, who over the course of his life had lost his entire immediate family to suicides. The last death drove him over the edge into homelessness. He told the audience about how hearing this man’s story helped him realize this story could have been his own.

Foxworthy continued by sharing how he used to view the homeless in a negative light until he visited the Atlanta Mission and listened to their stories. “This man could have been me,” he kept saying, urging the crowd to put ourselves in this young man’s shoes. Practicing empathy in this way allows us a new understanding of our surroundings such that we see the person and not the problem.

In this light, Foxworthy explained life isn’t all about personal choices. Sometimes, we are dealt a difficult hand and just need a little help to get us back on our feet. This closing testimony reminded me of the purpose behind working with MedShare and the Faiths Act Fellowship this year. Even if we don’t have all the money, power, or knowledge in the world, we can make a positive difference if we open our hearts to each other’s stories and lend a helping hand.

To read other Tony Blair Faiths Act Fellows blog posts, visit their website here.

One thought on “Practicing Empathy: Jeff Foxworthy’s Backyard Bash Takeaway

  1. May I suggest further resources to learn more about empathy and compassion.
    The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

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