At the beginning of the 2018 school year my daughter started working in grade schools toward a very meaningful initiative. Upon being asked to participate in the Roots of Empathy program I was unclear about what it would look like, however, my interest peaked, and we scheduled a meet and greet with our potential instructor. It went very well and on our first day I got my daughter ready in her little ‘teacher’ uniform (cue the proud tears of delight!) and we set out for our first session working with grade 7 students. She was 4 months old and I could see that she was a little overwhelmed with entering a new, busy environment. I held her tight as she clung to the neck of my shirt with a white-knuckle grip and intensely wide eyes. Our instructor guided us through an educational session about her capabilities, milestones and her general demeanor. I was delighted to see that the students were both curious and very respectful of her need for comfort and quiet ‘indoor voices’. Upon getting home and reflecting I was excited to continue our Roots of Empathy journey and all that we would subsequently experience as a community of shared learning.
The Roots of Empathy program got me thinking about the impact of emotion and understanding. Here, they were using infants in order to relay the significance of gentleness, compassion and patience. And it is then that I again understood the importance of holding empathetic space for those around us. Additionally, focusing on the concept of forgiveness when it came to my daughters’ initial apprehensiveness fostered a vibe of consideration that filled the room with a brilliant sense of community. We were suddenly all prepared to move at her pace and provide her the space to explore herself and her environment from an emotional standpoint. It was so beautiful to experience, and I often recount the effortless simplicity of these life and learning moments.
While highlighting the similarities in all of us we are able to understand how our perspective on others, in this case a very small child, shape our behaviours and attitudes toward aggression, bullying and self-acceptance. How thoughtful that we were going back to the basics and I wondered where this initiative had shifted to in adulthood. We could stand to learn a lot from children. I don’t even know how many times I’ve heard that! After all, using a vulnerable human being in the initial throws of learning provoked a thought about how we interact with others and understand both their joys and their plight. I suddenly realized that to pick the pace of someone else’s learning curve is dismissive of the natural way of things. Let’s be perfectly honest, it is much easier to allow a child their own space to learn at the rate they deem ideal. Our level of acceptance toward adults is for the most part, nowhere near this. We become irritated, frustrated and judgemental when our adult counterparts don’t learn at a pace we’ve labelled idyllic. I do understand the value in working at being patient with others and I was refreshed to know that I would be getting yet another crash course in patience and empathetic integrities.
After the academic year came to a close, we attended a banquet to formally end the school year, as well as recognize that a school in which we worked was closing its’ doors. I was amazed at the sense of community and raw emotion of both the staff and students. Several students came up to my daughter in order to express their gratitude for her efforts at ‘just being’. She showed up and was simply herself and this was perfectly enough.
As I mentioned, this experience directed me to think about the importance of patience when interacting with those who have not fully grasped the idea of emotional intelligence and responsibility. I couldn’t help but explore my ideas of these same principles in adulthood.
I needed this! In fact, everyone needed this!
In my humble opinion, everyone could afford to voyage back to the space which is ignited by the joy of a child. In the presence of a child, playfulness briskly emerges, and innocence automatically fills the room. Ahhhhh, pure bliss.
For more information on the Roots of Empathy Program in British Columbia please visit www.rootsofempthy.org.