I recently heard someone say that empathy can't be taught, but it can be inspired. If what we- the adults at school- mean by empathy is really just plain kindness than the same holds true for kindness. We can't teach children, or our peers, to be kind. Rather, we must model it and in doing so we demonstrate to those around us the norms and understandings that guide our behaviors and interactions.
A few posts ago, I wrote of the power of Wonder, a book by R.J. Palacio. The tagline of the book is "choose kind" and I found that simple, yet so compelling. I wanted that message to stay with me so I asked an art class student to paint this picture on a wall in my office. I recently learned that the author of Wonder was appearing in northern New Jersey and I knew I had to go see her. In her presentation, Ms. Palacio summarized her writing experience as well as the unexpected, and overwhelming response to the book. She did not expect that thousands of people throughout the world would embrace the book and pledge to Choose Kind. And it was at the end of her speech, that Ms. Palacio said, "you can't teach empathy, but you can inspire it."
Being kind isn't hard. Whether the message comes from a popular book or a powerful assembly, we all have the capability of creating significant change in the world around us through acts of kindness. As exemplified in the story below, when we commit acts of kindness we not only change the lives of others but also ourselves. Just ask Justice Miller, one heck of a teammate and certainly a changed person.
Rachel's Challenge Website
Previous Blog ("Choosing Kindness", August) Update:
Following the 60 Minutes program on mercy ships serving Africans suffering from cranio-facial disorders, a $20 million donation was made to pay for a second ship.