My bachelor’s degree in nursing is from Capital University in Columbus Ohio. Several times a year we get what most college alumni receive: an alumni magazine. This month had an intriguing article titled: “Can Teaching Empathy Lead to Social Change?”
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This past year Capital selected six students who were paired with a social service agency. They attended workshops, watched documentaries, read books, and volunteered. Not only did they learn more about that agency’s service – they were immersed in what it was like to be poor and disadvantaged.
For example one student stayed 24 hours in an emergency shelter. In the morning she was given a bus pass and told to go out and find affordable housing. She said she never even used a bus before and had no idea where to even begin a place to live.
Another had to identify and find three health care centers that provided no-or low-cost health care using only public transportation and the library – no cars and no phones allowed.
Another experienced living in a wheelchair for 24 hours.
One young lady fasted for 24 hours to experience hunger, but then they surprised her and added another roadblock by kicking her out of her dorm room for the next day.
“To get kicked out of my dorm and not have a place to stay, not knowing where I was going to shower, or eat or sleep and have no sense of stability – that was the hardest. I went to class and I fell asleep in class because I was so hungry and tired I didn’t even care,” she said.
What did they learn? They all said they were inspired by the hope they she saw in people who were struggling. They become slower to judge or condemn and saw the importance of keeping an open mind and not making assumptions about people’s circumstances. All were moved beyond sympathy for the poor into action to help those in poverty.
So true. When we really get to know another person, we do feel more empathy, love, and kindness towards them. I have always liked Steven Covey’s rule: “Seek first to understand.”
This article made me think and gave me hope in the next generation. I don’t think it is too late to nourish a little more empathy for others within my soul too.
How about you?