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Embracing Empathy

October 11, 2018
By Barrie Hillman

Embracing Empathy - Fall Gathering 2018During Fall Gathering, the idea of embracing empathy stood at the center of our work. Empathy was defined as the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. As mammals that naturally gravitate toward living and working in packs, empathy has long been a core element to our ability to thrive. It is through empathy that we protect each other, share our bounty, nurture our young, respect and care for our elders and continually seek improvement and innovation.

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling RönnlundStudents and faculty learned and played together during the retreat, embracing empathy. We had a purposeful and mindful intent to keep reminding ourselves that people are inherently good and caring despite the endless stream of sound bites and media clips that sensationalize non-empathetic behavior.

One of the resources I used during the Fall Gathering came from the book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund. This book came recommended to me by a parent and I found it to be an excellent reminder that based on data, humans can and have overcome so much and continually thrive and improve. The authors developed an amazing website as well that includes a visual time lapse of the growth and improvement of the human condition here: Gapminder. To me, this ability of the human race to overcome challenges and still continually improve can be attributed to empathy. And it is especially important to mindfully embrace empathy as we are faced with people who don't demonstrate very much of it. The exponential effect of paying empathy forward is a real thing...what good you put forth in the world can make a difference.

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