Empathy is a verb
January 15, 2017
I would love to lead a workshop on helping people embrace their "lightbulb moments." These moments can change our journey, can change our world, can help us be a better person. I've had several of these moments. One of them that helped create SALI happened during one of my classes, First Strike: the interconnection between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence with professor Randall Lockwood. Learning about my professor's research and others on this topic, lit a fire in my heart and brain, made me want to learn more, and made me want to act. It will be difficult to limit it to this blog post, but I have tried to put it into sound bites to share why I started SALI and why I know our early intervention children's program works.
Here's a quote from Professor Lockwood, "one of the most common factors in violence is a lack of empathy."
So conversely, empathy helps prevent violence! I took that to heart and ran with it. Imagine a young child that has been given a script of intergenerational violence. I felt strongly that this is not fair, this is a raw deal, definitely circumstances beyond their control, a child should be so much more than the bad script they've been handed. And after 6 years of running our farm program, I know that 99% of children do not want the script they've been given. (The 1% of children, that have not benefitted from our program, have not been ready for it, for their own reasons.)
SALI's Farm program guides children towards feeling empathy towards all living beings. This includes 2-legged, 4-legged, feathered, finned and nature. The empathy we teach at SALI's Farm is a verb. The children care for the animals: cleaning their stalls, giving them fresh water and food, giving them their medicine, grooming them, learning about their personalities. The children nurture flowers and vegetables and become caring wildlife neighbours. The children learn that they are capable of caring and that every living being deserved to be cared for, including themselves.
My hope is that the SALI's Farm experience can be a child's lightbulb moment for them. To open up their closed hurt heart to their immense possibilities to be true to themselves and not their script.
I love this video by Brene Brown. Check it out and imagine a child learning about this concept of empathy from animals, plants and nature.