Parents model behaviour to their children, and children watch very closely. My dad taught me not to give money on the street, but if someone asked, we should treat them with complete, sincere dignity and take the time to offer them whatever it is they need. It can be inconvenient -- taking a stranger out for lunch and hearing their story, spending an extra 5 minutes buying someone groceries, giving someone our own mittens in the dead of winter, or perhaps giving someone a ride that is out of our way.
One of the most common questions that I get asked by youth, parents, teachers and people all over my community is "I have a friend or a family member is suffering or I think there is something wrong but I don't know what to do or how to help." And while we aren't doctors, clinical experts or parents there are things that we as individuals can do that can help. We can most definitely be empathetic to those that may be suffering or we may be worried about.
You're processing the world around you, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. And as your mom, I'm doing my best to show you (and remind myself each day) how to bring light into this world each of those days. In the grocery store, at the park, in the classroom. We're in this together. We'll learn together. We'll fall together. We'll get up together.
The ability to imagine what another person would think or feel is referred to as the theory of mind. It is this that helps us realize that another person's mind is distinct from our own. When six-year olds point out physical flaws they are simply responding to their own curiosity. They have no idea that this might hurt people. To realize the impact of these observations would require the ability to be in someone else's head.
A few years ago I decided to embark on a backpacking trip across Europe for two months. Towards the end of my travels, I found myself at the Sisteen Chapel in Rome, Italy. As I was standing there, enchanted by this insanely crazy masterpiece, I felt a soft whisper perk the tiny hairs on the back of my neck.
This was one of the anticipated birthdays you were looking forward to other than 16 where you could finally learn to drive. But sadly, it was not a milestone you would ever reach. I often wonder what you would be like as an adult in our ever changing world.= What would the future hold if you hadn't had that awful Thanksgiving weekend and that horrible experience you came home to tell me about. If you had been able to sleep better that weekend. If others had just left you alone.
Alzheimer's caregivers are amazingly successful at juggling all of the things necessary to meet the needs of their loved one, but each day they're simultaneously learning how to juggle the many emotions they experience. Anger, guilt, fear and frustration are just a few of the complex emotional balls they are trying so hard to keep in the air.
As a business writer, people often ask me what books they should read to become better leaders. For years, my answer has been the same: read good fiction. If you want to learn how people think and behave, read a novel, a short story, or a play. Think of how effective we could be as leaders if we used our understanding of people to better empathize with our employees, clients, and boards.
The Internet is without a doubt one of the greatest innovations of our time. It, along with social media, has allowed us to connect with loved ones and like-minded people. However, it has also created a climate where humiliation, trolling, and cyberbullying are as easy as standing on a virtual soap-box and snidely tapping a few keystrokes for the world to see. We each need to play our part in acting with empathy and compassion.
While for many the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, for others, they are dreading the oncoming festivities because they may mark the 1st, 5th or 50th season without a loved one. No matter what denomination they are or what holiday they celebrate, there is one common factor that binds all of them together: someone they loved is gone.
Last spring, I joined my daughter Journey's fifth grade class as a volunteer on her field trip. I had the pleasure of watching a classmate approach Journey who was taking photos of a museum exhibit. The classmate suggested she turn off the camera flash; he was concerned that it could trigger one of her seizures. I was overcome with pride and appreciation for the caring, supportive community we have created in partnership with the school administration.
Truth is, that wasn't normal by any means. As a society, our relationship with homeless people is simple; either you drop a coin or walk by. It's impossible to connect with people as people because we let ourselves get divided only by borders, but also by our occupations, social status, and other arbitrary self-imposed barriers.