“Why should I bother reading this?” Honestly, maybe you shouldn’t. I mean, I want you to read it. And I hope you like it. And I hope it is a positive resource for people. But if you’ve got other priorities (like, good ones…not just scrolling through fb and instagram, AHEM), then maybe you should focus on them. Or if the idea of learning new things or hearing other perspectives makes you want to cry in pain, this probably isn’t for you.
But seriously, please read it.
There’s no shortage of content in the world right now. For anyone who likes learning or reading or any kind of informational input, this can be super overwhelming.* Maybe it’s overwhelming for everyone. So I figure sometimes it’s just nice to have a thoughtfully curated playlist of podcasts or a reading list to get you started. And I happen to think I’m good at this.**
I’m also a strong believer in a few things that I want to connect here: the power of Empathy, Stories, and Young People.
I want to gather stories from all kinds of perspectives. We can’t have empathy if we’re not familiar with other life experiences. We can discuss universal high level concepts (like suffering, poverty, discrimination, etc), but the real empathy comes from specific stories. In A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer talks about hearing a stranger’s story.
“I listened as one man grieved the recent death of his best friend, telling a moving story about an experience the two of them had shared. I did not know this man or his friend, but the story he told took me deep into my own life: it brought my own friends to mind and reminded me of how precious they are…another person spoke, describing with uncanny accuracy what had happened within me as I had listened to the first person speak:
“We believe that we will find shared truth by going up into big ideas,” she said. “But it is only when we go down, drawing deep from the well of personal experience, that we tap into the living water that supplies all of our lives.”
In other words, specific stories are far more powerful than abstract ideas.
Sometimes I get discouraged by all of the negativity in the world and it’s hard to know where to start. How can we make a difference? In the weeks after the 2016 election, I was feeling a lot of despair. There were plenty of articles and think pieces suggesting that it was now time to talk to our friends and family with whom we disagree. Yes, definitely. But it didn’t feel like enough, or even realistic for relationships that are long distance or already fraught with complexity without adding the discussion of “controversial” topics. I 100% believe people can change the way they think, but I also know a lot of stubborn people. You know what I mean?
But we don’t have to wait until we’re adults and voting and living “real life” to have these tough conversations. Why not start planting empathy in younger people in, say, high school or college? I saw the power of a youth movement at Invisible Children. Teenagers are full of passion and angst, but they are often focused solely on their own problems (which exist, don’t get me wrong). But when they are introduced to a broader worldview and have a positive outlet for their energy***, there’s unlimited potential for change. They can rally to do something specific immediately, but they are also equipped to move forward in the world with empathy and concern for others as they grow older. That’s why I want to include ways to integrate these materials in classrooms.
Lastly, I think there are things we face as adults that we aren’t always prepared for or talk about enough (ok some of it we may talk about too much, but still). Like, how do I deal with money when I don’t have
enough any? Do I actually have to invest in my future financially? How do I choose a health insurance plan? Oh, I’m supposed to take advantage of an employer’s 401k matching program****? How do I become an emotionally healthy human adult? What am I doing with my life? Should I know what I want to be when I grow up?
Maybe I’m expecting this blog to do too many things, but there’s only one way to find out. So stayed tuned!
*Shout out to my fellow Fives on the Enneagram and people with Input or Learner on Strengthsfinder.
***We need to put these kids to work! They have so much more energy than most adults!
****YES. YES YOU DO. I know it hasn’t been covered here yet, but just stop what you’re doing and enroll and start getting that free money!