A Wish for the World - Empathy

"If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

This week our theme is A Wish for the World and, frankly, I was stumped.  I have so many, many wishes for the future.  How was I to write a blog post about such a huge topic?  But the more I thought about it, the more I kept coming back to one big idea.  My wish for the world is ... 


These days my phone, television, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages are filled with passionate political statements and heart felt agendas. Because of my particular background, I might be a bit unusual.  I have "friends" who post on my social media sites from the far, far right and some who post from the far, far left (and probably every point in between).  Sometimes it's looks like the current debate, on almost any topic, is being heatedly argued every time I log in.  

If I could just introduce one friend to the other in ways that would allow them to empathize with each other...

"Hi, Shelly, this is Carol.  Carol brings her thirty two year old, severely disabled stepson home every weekend to give him a break from the group home where he currently lives.  However, it doesn't give Carol a break or a weekend. Ever.  She divorced his father ten years ago, but will never leave his son.  On most evenings after work, she sits at home alone -- with phone, cable, and sometimes electricity turned off for late payments - until it's time to go to work again. Carol drives all her coworkers crazy with her constant talking and socializing.   
If you could climb inside of her skin and walk around in it, you might learn something very important.  You might learn to understand Carol."
"Hi Carol, this is Shelly.  Shelly lost her job, house, and her retirement in the economic downturn.  She makes it every month by getting a payday loan or pawning what little gold jewelry she has left.  Shelly is angry and bitter.  She never has a good word to say about anyone.  Little do they know she sits with her mother in a cancer ward every tuesday morning slowly watching the chemo kill her before the cancer can.  If you could climb inside her skin and walk around in it, you might learn something very important.  You might learn to understand Shelly."
ah, empathy Isn't that what writer's try to do?  To really listen to the people, and characters, who have stories to tell?  To stand in their shoes? To write multi-dimensional, complex stories with embedded reasons why they became who they are today. But it takes a heart that listens to truely hear those stories. 

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak. They're filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people's lives." 
Stephen Covey

And what about those villains  in our stories and in our lives.  Even they have stories.

 "I told you once that I was searching for the nature of evil. I think I've come close to defining it: a lack of empathy. It's the one characteristic that connects all the defendants. A genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow man. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy." 
Gustav M. Gilbert, German-speaking American prison psychologist at Spandau prison in Berlin, where Nazi war crimes defendants were held, 1945

So my wish for the world is empathy and I believe we can get there by sharing, not just our political persuasions this election season, but also our story.  Write for empathy.  Even with your most difficult character.


Linkin Park has a song titled "Crawlin in my skin". This post made me think about how many countless people would be crawlin to get out if they were shifted to someone else's skin. Would certainly force a lot of change in perspective...maybe a few more open minds.

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