The Importance of Empathy
One of my favorite books is "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint -Exupery. Written 75 years ago, "The Little Prince " describes the experiences that the principle character, a visitor from another planet has during his visit to earth. While I still have difficulty in understanding some of the chapters in the book I can easily identify with the character thru my own experiences of having moved to diffent places and encountering people and societies different from those of my past. In fact, I believe that the difficulties I have encountered in understanding everything in the book serves to illustrate the very purpose of the story. From our unique experiences we ourselves become unique and that while we adopt and change over times we are in many way strangers. This to me underscores the importance of empathy, trying to understand how a person feels which means putting events and knowledge in a context sometimes difficult to do that serves to increase understanding.
In talking about trying to understand some of the racial and other tensions in society I all too frquently hear people talk of their own background yet never mentioning the experiences and circumstances of the other group in question. For example the debate over school choice is frequently seen as a debate over the value of public education. Many point to their own education in a surburban public school as evidence of the value of such as education. I have no doubt that they are correct and yet the real debate is not about the public schools they attended in a place like Brentwood but if they would be willing to send their children to an public school in one of our inner cities like Oakland, Chicago, or Detroit. I think is very unfortunate that all too many people fail to understand what people who were born into less satisfactory circumstances feel knowing their children will be disadvantaged by being condemed to a substandard education and therefore denied the opportunities in life other take for granted. This lack of empathy on tghe part of the larger more satisfied ppoulation gives extended life to the circumstances that many people, mostly minority live in and that increaes the probability of crime and incarceration in these communities.
How would You feel if It Were Your Child?
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensetive to , and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thought, and experiences of another person.