The writer Frederick Buechner is quoted as saying, "Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Let's talk about the "other" person. You know, the guy who stands in line at the grocery store, or coffee shop who's obnoxious and crude, who seems to say whatever comes to mind and doesn't seem to understand what the word "filter" means. Or then again, maybe the other person for you is that lady who seems to ride a broom stick to work, who is uptight and short and in your opinion needs to learn the meaning of the phrase, "live a little."
So it's easy to recognize the fact that you either don't understand, or just don't like the other person, but how often do we consider the reality that they are part of our life whether we like it or not? They are another plant in the ecosystem of our social experience. And like any garden, or environment, we depend on them as much as they depend on us. It may not be immediately apparent to us, but the simple fact of their presence in our life means that they already have an effect on us.
So we have a choice, we can choose to not acknowledge these other people, or we can choose to take a moment to step inside their skin for a brief second and ask them how they are doing, or who their favorite author is. The question doesn't really matter. What matters is gaining an understanding of who they are.
In the end, our happiness is directly linked to the people around us. We can choose to be annoyed by those who test our patience, or we can choose to enjoy their presence by extending an arm of understanding and compassion. Chances are, somebody has already done so for us.