Developing Empathy

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, 
you are more blessed than the million who won't survive the week. 

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, 
the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, 
you are ahead of 20 million people around the world. 

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, 
you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world. 

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, 
a roof over your head and a place to sleep,
you are richer than 75% of this world. 

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, 
and spare change in a dish someplace, 
you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. 

If you can read this message, 
you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world 
that cannot read anything at all. 

You are so blessed in ways you may never even know.

 

Philosopher and author, Roman Krznaric used to think that society was changed through politics and the law but he now thinks it’s changed by changing how we understand each other. The key? Empathy. Without it, we’re emotionally tone deaf. It’s what bonds us to others. And so, he’s set about creating an empathy revolution.  One of his ideas was the creation of the ‘A Mile In My Shoes’ installation which visited Australia a few years ago. It’s a portable, giant shoebox where you’re given a pair of shoes and headphones with a recorded story and you spend a mile, literally, walking in somebody else’s shoes. We never really understand another person until we ‘step inside their skin and walk around in it’ for a while. Everybody has a story and we never really understand that person until we step into their shoes.

I think Jesus is the greatest example of someone who would step into the shoes of another person, understand their situation and through doing this he ultimately brought about a change in attitudes of individuals that continues to impact on our world even today. When working with students it is really important to show understanding and empathy for them and their world, and in doing so we are in a position to shape, influence, empower and facilitate growth.

It is also important to provide opportunities for them to step into the shoes of others and understand their plight and circumstances. Last week, as the Middle School enjoyed a range of activities, there were many opportunities for empathy building.

Whether they were Year 9s in the city, being exposed to homelessness, the court system, immigration stories or the messages that come through in the various installations of street art; whether it was on the Year 8 experiences where students were invited to reflect on their ‘growing up’ journey thus far and what and who powerfully influences them in their behaviour, attitude and choices, or even the Year 7s in their Activity Week; so many opportunities to get-to-know other students and understand their stories.

And now this week, a school-wide focus on anti-bullying and growing positive learning communities!  What another great opportunity for our students to learn about empathy, and to increase their own awareness about how they can be responsible for creating safe places for everyone. 

Our school’s mission is to provide... ’learning experiences that challenge each student to actively live for God in His world...’; being a person of empathy and care is one way they can do just that!