Empathy

A friend sent me the following true story:

One day, a schoolteacher assigned each of her 5th Grade students a simple task e.g. bringing chalk pieces from the store, bringing a book from the staff room, bringing a glass of water from the water cooler, etc. The student was blindfolded, while a classmate would walk behind him to ensure that he did not injure himself. After performing the tasks, everyone realized how simple tasks became so difficult when one was blindfolded.

Next day, when they visited the School for the Blind along with their teacher, all these students were really appreciative about the work done by the blind students – the handicrafts, written books etc. They did not pity the blind children or look down on them; they empathized with them and respected them!

What a simple and lovely way to make young children empathize with the differently-abled! If we all tried to empathize with people who are in some way different from us, the world would be a better place.

Before we pass judgment on persons who have behaved in what we consider a foolish or abnormal manner, we must ask ourselves how we might have behaved if we had been in that personโ€™s circumstances.

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27 thoughts on “Empathy

  1. I’m particularly touched by what you have shared. We have a story called ‘School for Sympathy’, in Class 6, where a school with a difference is described. How each child (all ‘normal’, in our judegmental parlance) is to spend different days of the week, being deaf, mute, maimed or blind.
    On the blind days, they sleep with the blindfold, and wake blind. Another child is a ‘helper’.
    This year when we did this in class, I remember asking them to visualize, and then we discussed which would be the most difficult day. Blind, of course, was unanimous. It is when we step into another’s shoe we really feel their pinch, is it not. And so we decided, it had to be a School for Empathy would have been a better title ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, this year, the CBSE in their Class 9 Board Paper has included something called OTBA (Open Text Based Assessment), where a long text is given and they are to analyse a case study and give their interpretation and conclusion. A wonderful passage called “Zest for Living’ was one of them! Totally, through case studies, Empathy was drawn into the class. It was actually tangible their responses, as we did the passage!

    Do excuse me for this long comment – errr… longer than the post? ๐Ÿ™‚ – but the word Empathy always prompts me to go overboard!

    • ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, your comment is longer than the post! But, that’s only to be expected from a passionate schoolteacher.

      ‘School for Empathy’ would be a better title, but ‘School for Sympathy’ is also OK. To me, it’s the thought that counts. (It’s possible the word ’empathy’ was avoided intentionally because quite a few people tend to confuse between ’empathy’ and ‘antipathy’.)

  2. Indeed a great method at sensitizing the gen-next on getting to know the differently abled.
    Such visits should be inculcated in all schools on the same lines as annual school picnics.

  3. Excellent! I have worked extensively with special kids in a reverse integrated school. The ‘normal’ kids learn to empathise with and accept the special kids at a very early age. In fact, there are many things they can learn from the latter.

  4. “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” is a saying my Mom impressed upon me all the time!

    Empathy is one of the most beautiful words in the English language – it is an experience.

    Thank you Pro. What a great teacher! I can imagine those children becoming fine young adults!.

  5. Do not teach your children what to think, instead teach them how to think.
    Like the way the teacher prepared the children for the visit the next day.

  6. Now, this is a wonderful story. It is easy , as children, to appreciate what others do, when they themselves get to do it first. And that lesson at fetching the chalk pieces, all the while being blindfolded was the best way to help them imbibe the lesson, as children learn what they do.

    Your blog gives us deep morals from practical life. Glad for that ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. What a beautiful way to teach kids to respect all kinds of people..!!
    And this also helps them appreciate their own gifts too. So they will not take their gifts for granted. And a lesson like this taught so young in life goes a long way into making them good people.

  8. I wish this was taught to each child from a very early age. That itself would solve lot of problems. We can never understand the other person’s situation unless we have travelled a distance in their shoes. Beautiful story. Simplest way to teach an important lesson like empathy.

  9. people often confuse sympathy with empathy….. empathy invokes a lot more understanding and love than sympathy ever will…. what u have shared is so beautiful…..and yes..kids need to be taught that early on, and they learn only by watching us, so i guess, the whole thing starts with us!

  10. One of the many things my mother taught me was to look at every problem with the other person’s perspective. This way, you will be able to avoid a lot of heart burn, and will make it easier for you to solve the problem.

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