Once upon a time… there was a young traveller. During his journey, he gave money to everyone he met that told him sad, sad stories: a mother, who needs medicine for her sick child; a young man, who needs food for his young siblings; a farmer, who needs money to buy seeds for planting.

“I wish you happiness”, he said—with a smile on his face, to everyone who he’s offered his clothes, his shoes, and all his money to.

Ashamed with walking without clothes, he ventured into the forest. There, he met large monsters and creatures that use words cleverly to try to eat him. He gave away his arms and legs willingly, glady, until all that’s left is just his head. In the end, one final monster approached him and he gave his eyes to it. As his eyes are being muched, the monster thanked him and left him a present—a small note—to show his gratitude.

“Thank you, thank you! No one’s ever given me a present before!”, he said happily, with tears flowing out of his sockets. A moment after, he passed away. The only things left in the end are his sweet and genuine smile on his face, right until his last breath and one word written inside the small note by his side—stupid.

This is a story written by Natsuki Takaya—who also created Fruits Basket—which I have changed the flow of the story a bit, with the tittle being The Most Foolish Traveler in the World.

I find it interesting because without mentioning that all these townspeople and the monsters are actually tricking him, playing him as a fool, one would just find it a normal kind-to-a-fault-type of story. But, the trick that work in this story is that even though he knows he’s being fooled, he’d still choose to help them. He had a reason to. The stories they told were not some ingenious ones that we haven’t heard of, but simple, simple ones that managed to evoke his emotions.

Or more correctly, his empathy.

And this in turn, evoke ours.

Because no matter how it turns out, this story concluded on the note he has practically done nothing. Nothing, but only his own sense of satisfaction and happiness, others’ hunger and greed being fulfilled. And that’s the sad part of it: realising that there isn’t a point to his action.

How many of us have poured our heart into something only to realise that almost no one appreciate the end result? How selfish it is for us to believe that everyone gets a happy ending? That, if we wish hard enough, miracle will happen?

Because in essence, empathy portrays an emotion, a feeling that cannot be categorised or duplicated to achieve the exact same effect. For example, crying while eating scenes, just happen to be my kryptonite for empathy. I was raised in a way that I wouldn’t throw a fit or play with food as a child, and to strictly maintain a proper eating manner at the table.

So, I think that for one to cry when they are eating, one must exhibit a strong, lasting emotions of either love, or hate. The reminiscing memory that reminds them of someone they just lost, the unspeakable pain of losing an important match that they care about and most importantly, how they will remember that moment for the rest of their lives.

Depicted in diverse techniques, these are little moments inside stories that can evoke empathy, even though one might have never experienced them before. Empathy, is a powerful, powerful ability that everyone has, but uses in many different ways, based on various interpretations, which we derived from numerous stories.

In many shapes and many colours, this is how empathy is born.

It’s truly something, isn’t it?