In my last column, I wrote about a high school buddy, Kevin Green, a warm and helpful man who floundered in a tough job market, hurt his back and died at the age of 54. The column was a call for empathy for those who are struggling, but, predictably, scolds complained that Kevin’s problems were of his own making.
So what do we know about empathy and how to nurture it?
First, it seems hard-wired. Even laboratory rats will sometimes free a trapped companion before munching on a food treat.