Commerce Matters: Embrace empathy, become a community of kindness (Voices)

Ann Silver is CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

Ann Silver is CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

These past months have been difficult; illness, death, business failures, mask mandates, social distancing, the inevitable feelings of loneliness and isolation, anxiety, caution, and concern.

And knowing the 2021 Legislative session is still underway is another source of stress for those of us who study bill proposals and gauge their potential impact on business, education, healthcare and our daily lives.

While this pandemic often creates more complications that simplification, I was reminded of the importance of the generosity of kindness on a recent morning when I fell during my early morning run.

I slipped on a patch of black ice and quite literally, “fell on my face.” I did see stars, briefly cried, realized blood was seeping down my nose and lips, and rolled over. While on my back, lying on Skyline Boulevard, hearing cars drive by me and even a few trucks, I was stunned by the fall, but more significantly, by the realization that not one driver stopped, opened a window and inquired as to my condition.

I lay flat on my back on the side of the street and bloody from the fall. I was hurt and not one passerby took the time to ask if I was alright, needed assistance, or should call someone on my behalf. My injuries are healing, but my surprise at the lack of kindness has motivated my innate sense that we must practice mutual care even if the person is a stranger.

We are reluctant to approach the vagrant or the individual who appears unclean or in an altered state. We are reluctant to inquire, “Are you alright,” or, “Do you need anything?” when it seems best to walk on, walk around, or cross the street. We make biased decisions based on irrational fears or prejudices that prevent us from practicing simple acts of kindness.

The problem is not just the chance encounter with a stranger but the widespread lack of empathy that is wanting. Throughout the pandemic, we found the moral and psychological benefits of donating food, ordering from small businesses, and heralding our emergency and healthcare workers. Volunteer numbers increased with the understanding of how to be responsive and accountable to neighbors.

But our demonstrations of kindness should be ongoing and common practice, free and without cost, particularly when that wounded person, the individual you may not know or ever see again, needs attention.

The need to embrace our mutualism rather than just our individualism is to reflect a community of kindness where it is recognized as a necessity of our culture and personal identification.

“Commerce Matters” is a monthly Voices column in the NNBW authored by Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce. Reach her for comment at


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