We pass them in the grocery store. We breeze by them in the office. We ride with them on elevators. Yet, we have no idea what the person standing next to us is really going through, what trauma they may have just experienced, what bad news they may
A spouse diagnosed with a terminal illness. Visiting a parent in hospice unknowingly for the last time. Wondering how Dad, who just had a stroke, will be taken care of.
These are a few of only millions of real situations people encounter and have to deal with each day.
What’s more, WE may BE the person who’s just received the unfavorable news or the bad diagnosis.
We live in a society where we’re so rushed and busy; it’s normal for us to focus on what we need to do in the moment (this is me). But what could potentially happen if we just slowed down a moment and stopped to think of those around us, to smile at someone, to just say, “Good morning,” or “Good afternoon” to the person standing in line before us?
I recently watched a video entitled, “Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care,” a video produced by the Cleveland Clinic (I originally saw it on the blog “On Being” by Krista Tippett).
The video started out with a quote by Henry David Thoreau,
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”
Just for an instant, just for a moment.
I think sometimes that may be easier said than done. I know it is for me.
So how do we go about being people who can see through another’s eyes? How can we learn to show more empathy in our fast-paced world?
Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers (my husband does this so well) – this entails not just talking to the person next to you about the weather, but about “trying to understand the world inside the person.”
Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities – I know that I’ve made assumptions about people based on the way they look, and upon having a conversation with them, learned they were completely different than what I thought.
Habit 3: Try another person’s life – this is a physically experiential habit. In other words, do something that represents how another person views life. For example, if you’re a Christian, attend a Sikh service. If you don’t like the outdoors, spend some time camping for a night.
Habit 4: Listen hard and open up – really listen and make yourself vulnerable by exposing ourselves and our own emotions (I personally think you have to survey the situation to make sure opening yourself up is really “safe”).
Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change – practicing empathy is not just for individuals. People can organize collectively to practice empathy to inspire social change. It seems the Occupy movement may have fit that bill, at least initially. But according to the article, collective change will most likely come about by teaching this new generation of children how to be empathic. As well, social networking is a vehicle that can be a catalyst for change.
Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination – this seems similar to Habit 3. According to the article, “We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives…”
So here are six habits that we can develop to help us grow in empathy.
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE EMPATHY? WHAT ARE SOME OTHER WAYS WE CAN PUT OURSELVES IN ANOTHER’S SHOES TO POSITIVELY IMPACT THAT PERSON’S LIFE, AS WELL AS OUR OWN?
My students just knew I’d love this video and insisted on showing it to me.
They were right… I LOVED it!
I’ve never seen this kid, but I’ll be watching more of his “pep talks.” In addition to him being very cute, he seems to know the right questions to ask. For example, this very important question addressed to us all:
“What will you create to make the world awesome?”
Very encouraging. From the mouths of babes.
I wish someone taught me these principles when I was his age. I wouldn’t have so much to make up for now. Better late than never.
Share this to encourage someone who needs to know they’re special and needed in this world.
When you think about the words that you’ve seen in some girls’ bathroom stalls, what do you normally think about? Words that typically come to my mind are vulgarity, nastiness, foolishness, offensive… lots of these types of adjectives come to mind. Of course, then there are all the phone numbers revealing personal data about people who had no intention of sharing that information.
Who would think that one could receive wisdom from a girls’ bathroom stall? And yet, that’s exactly what was found in a university restroom, in response to the disclosure of some tragic and terrible life experiences, written in a single stall.
That someone took the time out to thoughtfully respond is remarkable. Her words are inspiring – for anyone.
Take a look at the story, with an image of the actual note, here.
I love teaching. I love teaching biblical texts. Teaching biblical texts affords me the opportunity to help my learners understand scripture in a way that they’ve never had the opportunity to learn it before. I get to help them explore the texts in their historical and cultural contexts, but we also get to explore together how those texts influence our culture and lives today.
In my Old Testament classes, we’ve been exploring the narrative of the man and woman in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. We do a pretty close reading of texts because I find that students’ assumptions of biblical events and the meaning of those events is often colored by what they may have previously heard in church, and crucial details are often missed, which sometimes leads us to a not-so-complete interpretation of the stories. I think we do ourselves a disservice by not attending to these sacred texts intently, because we can possibly miss what the original intent of the writing was.
Not that there aren’t other ways to interpret the Bible other than historically. I’m by no means saying that. I’m just saying that I’ve discovered that examining scripture in its original context can provide some pretty rich interpretations, and can really help to enrich one’s faith. At least it has enriched my own.
Okay, I’m a little off on a tangent…
My learners and I were exploring the following text:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ (Genesis 3:1-3)
Now, that’s not the command God originally gave regarding that tree. God originally told the man (Adam):
“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
So you can see, what God told the man and what the woman said God commanded are a little different.
So I asked my 9th graders, “Why do you think she got the commandment wrong?”
Some students said, “Maybe she just didn’t hear the command clearly.” Others said, “Well, God didn’t give it to her, and so the man (Adam) may have not communicated the command clearly to her.”
To which one of students said,
“Maybe he just didn’t like her.”
I was speechless.
Because it made sense.
For what other reason would he blame her for being tempted to eat the fruit? For what other reason would he not fess up to getting the command wrong?
So I stood there in the front of the class, pondering what she said. For about a minute. I couldn’t seem to move on from my learner’s statement. It intrigued me.
And my other learners watched me in my state of intrigued-ness. I think they took some delight in it, knowing that, as I said to them, I had heard something about that text that I’d never heard before, and it came from a 14-year old.
Which is why I teach.
I learn so much from my learners. If I ever think that I’m teaching only to impart a bunch of knowledge, to open my students’ brains and pour into them everything I know, then I need not be in a classroom. For my classroom is a community, and we are all there to learn.
So in that moment, I was reminded of how each of us has a voice, a very important voice, because God has imparted to each of us a measure of wisdom. It’s up to us to hear that wisdom and use it for the betterment of us all.
And it doesn’t matter who imparts it. Whether I get it from my 8-year old daughter, my 14-year old freshmen, my 17-year old seniors, my ??-year old husband (who is incredibly wise), or someone on the street, it doesn’t matter. God uses His children to share His wisdom with us all.
And I’m thankful I’m in a position in which I can encourage my students to explore their own inner wisdom by asking questions which causes them to dig into texts differently than they’ve done in the past. Because in doing so, I think I’m empowering them to use those voices for good.
The challenge – look for wisdom to come in unexpected ways.
TED.com is a website that I became acquainted with through one of my teaching colleagues. According to the website:
“TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.
You can find talks about various topics, from education to religion to technology to entertainment…Lots of very intriguing speakers, some who are well-known, such as Al Gore, to less well-known people, who, in their talks, inspire us, teach us, persuade us, fascinate us…
I came across a new TED talk today that I felt I had to share. This talk was given by Tony Porter at the first TEDWomen conference held just this past month. Mr. Porter is the co-founder of A Call to Men, a non-profit organization “committed to ending violence against women.” In his presentation, he discusses the “Man Box,” and how living in the “Man Box” causes men to live in bondage to what some men think being a man is all about. He discusses how much of living in the “Man Box” leads to violence against women. Nonetheless, he concludes his talk with a profound statement of liberation that we all, men and women, must hear.
Below is the video of “Tony Porter: A Call to Men.” Play it for every man you know. But as a woman, I feel it is also a call to me – to further understand these issues so that I can understand that there are other men who are trying to break free of the “Man Box.” I need to understand these issues so that when my husband explains the “Man Box” to our daughter, that I will be able to understand right along with her.
I am the wife of a man who has long broken out of the “Man Box.” Nonetheless, let us all seek to understand the men in our lives to support them breaking out of their own “Man Box.”
Poetry slammer Katie Makkai gives voice to how we – as parents, as teachers, as those concerned with the tender hearts of our young people – should respond to the insecurities our girls carry as a result of listening to and watching what the media deems to suggest what’s right for them. It is absolutely powerful.
I haven’t posted in quite a long time, not on a regular basis, as you can see. Life got in the way (this is not a bad thing at all). See, I’m a wife of almost 10 years (yea!), a mother over 6 years, a teacher over 10 years, you get the idea. And your life is no different – I mean, we’re all busy.
One of the areas of greatest concern to me now, as a mother and teacher (in a private school) is the state of education today – public education, that is. Our daughter is in first grade in the public school system, and I’ve found myself dismayed by the education system in this country. Civility is no longer valued among students, teachers are not respected, some teachers deserve not to influence our children’s minds. So one of the things I focus on is education.
To that end, my posts will probably focus more on the topic of education, since the need for education reform is staggering. We all need to engage ourselves in this effort, because if we don’t, we’ll decline into third world status…literally. And our children, so precious, deserve so much better than that.
To that end, I want to share this video. It’s entitled “Lost Generation.” It’s less than two minutes long, but in that less than two minutes, a great message about our young people needs to be heard – and spread across this country.
Take a look…
Our children deserve so much more than what we’re giving them.
I’m guilty. Yes, I have talked on my cell while driving. Yes, I thought I had it under control. And while I didn’t text while driving (now THAT one I don’t quite understand), I would, periodically, start a text at a stop light, stop when I began moving, and try to continue the text at the next stop light. Yes, that, in my mind, was okay to do.
So how often do we observe cell phone use while driving? In the Atlanta area, all the time. And although inherently I believed it was a dangerous practice, I sometimes felt I had to call my husband on my way home from work, or call a friend because the 35-40 minute commute was the most convenient time to have a conversation.
That was before I watched Oprah’s episode on what Oprah refers to as “America’s New Deadly Obsession,” cell phone use while driving, when it first aired a couple of weeks ago. As I listened to the stories about people losing their lives because someone, whether it was the person killed or someone in another vehicle, was using a cell phone while driving, I was convicted. And I thought to myself, “That could’ve been me. I could’ve caused an injury or death at any time.” So I acknowledge I’ve been fortunate. My angels have been looking out for me. But after that episode, I promised I would never use my cell phone for anything as I drive.
I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by not texting or using my phone while I am driving. I will ask other drivers I know to do the same. I pledge to make a difference.
I know we are all busy. We try to cram as much into a day as possible, because there are ONLY 24 hours in a day. But seriously, is phone use while driving really worth the lives we put at risk when we engage in what Oprah calls “America’s New Deadly Obsession”? Is it worth your son or daughter losing their mother or father? Is it worth losing the loved ones who ride with you each day? Is it worth taking the life of someone’s daughter or son? Rhetorical. No need to answer.
Oh, by the way, check out this statistic: we are four times more likely to have an accident if driving and talk on our cell phones. That is the equivalent of a driving with a blood alcohol of .08, the limit at which one is charged a DUI. Even worse, we are eight times more likely to have an accident if we text while driving.
Unfortunately, not too long after the episode aired, it was reported that a 19-year old man sending a text slammed into a telephone pole here in Atlanta.