For the past month I’ve been thinking seriously about Empathy and the importance of developing empathy as a core value / skills / trait amongst our young people. Empathy is an essential component of a healthy and supportive, progressive and caring world and opportunities to learn and experience empathy are happening all around us IF we take the time to notice them.
The boy in the black tracksuit with the hoodie up who moves seats on the bus to allow the struggling elderly lady sit down.
The firefighter who’s getting their lunch and quietly sets down a hot drink next to the homeless man as they leave the café.
The driver who waits until the oncoming traffic has gone so they can drive around the huge puddle next to the busy tram stop.
These are all little acts of kindness which can be spurred on by simply considering what other people are going through and acting to make their lives a tiny bit better.
We had World Kindness Day on the 13thNovember and Anti Bullying Week is 15thto 19thNovember and these little punctuations are designed to help us stop and reflect, think and act with compassion, kindness and without harm to others. It’s not difficult is it?
Empathy and kindness just take focus and time to think about them AND then a split-second decision to act differently. Sometimes it takes less effort to say nothing to someone rather than one or two words which may resonate with them for a long time.
Imagine you’re an awkward, socially-phobic teen who’s made great strides in challenging your tendency to stay inside and safe and you venture into the small local supermarket for lunch. You get your meal-deal and queue up, there are two tills – no self-serve ones – and one becomes free, you know what the meal deal costs and you’ve got the right money…you’re a bit flustered but you think you’ve got it right so you’re surprised when the man on the till laughs loudly and says ‘shall I keep the change Rockefeller…?’ because you’ve given him a pound more than was needed.
‘Primary kids can do maths better than that, what ARE they teaching you at that school?!’
You take the food, you take the extra pound and you run out of the shop, convincedeveryone is laughing at you.
Whether anyone is laughing at you or not (they’re almost certainly not, busy thinking about the aggressive bullying of the man at the till rather than the awkward teen he just humiliated) this tiny act of aggression will stay with you for months and helps to retract you back into your shell.
This is an empathy lightbulb – for the man at the till, for the people in the queue and for the woman who saw all this unfold and stops for a quiet word with the supervisor on the way out to suggest some customer service training.
So here’s the plan: I’m going to write the book of Empathy Lightbulbs – empathy lightbulbs in society, in families, in schools, when travelling in all forms, consideration for those with disabilities, empathy for people in difficult jobs and empathy for those of different generations.
Empathy is NOT pity, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another and this can be developed through personal interaction, novels, stories, films, scenarios, role play and through consideration of another’s situation.
I want Empathy Lightbulbs to become a handbook for humanity, a handbook which will help us develop understanding of others and actively curate kind and thoughtful responses and interactions.
An Empathy Lightbulbs card game will allow you to support student development through PSHE lessons or form-time and Empathy Lightbulb postcards will be used for people to say ‘Thank You’ to one another for helping their understanding, to send home to parents about kindness and empathy shown in school and used to share stories of kindness and understanding outside the school community.
I’m going to have the Empathy Lightbulb book and card game ready for September 2022 so you can use it for World Kindness Day and Anti-Bullying Week next year…there will be CPD sessions and the chance to contribute your own Empathy Lightbulbs too – whether you see them or create them.
Watch this space!