We can learn a great deal from "Sonny's Blues." One lesson we learn from "Sonny's Blues" is that experience brings empathy. After learning about his brother's heroin addiction, the narrator does not reach out to help his brother, Sonny. Instead, he waits nearly half a year.
I think I may have written Sonny the very day that little Grace was buried. I was sitting in the living room in the dark, by myself, and I suddenly thought of Sonny. My trouble made his real.
Because the narrator has experienced the pain from the loss of his daughter, he understands the pain that his brother must be going through. Just as the narrator is alone in his room, he realizes that his brother must feel alone, and that is when he decides to reach out to him. We see the narrator's capacity for empathy in an earlier scene when the narrator is speaking to one of Sonny's friends.
"Look. Don't tell me your sad story, if it was up to me, I'd give you one." Then I felt guilty -- guilty, probably, for never having supposed that the poor bastard had a story of his own, much less a sad one.
While the narrator starts off angry at Sonny's friend, he begins to sympathize with him, and by the end of the scene he even gives the friend money.
The experience of reading gives the reader of this story an opportunity to empathize with Sonny and the narrator as well. Through reading we must put ourselves in the characters' shoes and experience their problems. Similarly, at the end of the story, the narrator, while listening to Sonny's band, realizes that the musicians are communicating their suffering through the music and that this music can help soothe those in the audience who are suffering. The suffering that is carried by the music is universal to all humans.
For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness.