If you read a short-story quickly, just up and down, then chances are it will leave you with a flat experience. One can argue such is the case with all literature, but specifically with short-stories and even more so with poetry which is often laden with a meticulous structure and intricate details.
Fiction is writing about the life around the facts. The emotions and feelings, the sorrow, the misfortune, the glory and happiness etc. So if you read between the lines you gain more insight and reflections which graciously leaves you wrapped with empathy.
If you let that empathy sustain in you then soon enough you will feel a deeper connection, a humble understanding, not only to the protagonist but also to the people in your everyday life.
Maybe you come across reading about the hardships of a newly arrived immigrant, or a child being bullied at school, or culture clashes, poverty, victims of war etc. Writing a short-story is like taking a microscope and enlarging a fragment of a whole piece. Therefore, the short-story raises its own questions and reflections. There need not even be a typical beginning or end. The short-story will in some cases challenge your need for absolute definitions.
Like I mentioned before the act of reflecting is where the sustainable empathy is born. It can better teach us to understand, for example, the lives of workers in the clothing-factory business – people across the globe with ghastly working conditions. Sustainable empathy forges a more comfortable thought when it comes to showing a fair and just hand instead of shunning the issue away as a bothersome responsibility.
So when reading a short piece, take your time, it’s art not a chore. Feel what you’re reading, visualize the words. Let the reflections and thoughts sustain, discuss it with friends – so much can happen from those discussions. You might even realize something about your own patterns of life and how society’s normative structures and strict gender roles lurks in the background. Soon enough you might take the complete reins to your own life. So please let empathy sustain in you, for yourself.. and for others.