Friday, October 18, 2013

"Put yourself in someone else's shoes."

Hello my empathetic 8th Graders,

        During our weekly Homeroom time together (which is so special), we tackled the question, "What does it mean 'to put oneself in another person's shoes and how does one do it?" As I shared with you, Mrs. Cohen, the founding Head of our beloved school, taught me the phrase "put yourself in his/her shoes" and used it regularly when she ran 8th Grade Chavurah (she still says it!). 
        As a class we struggled with the question. Some of you felt that it was easy to relate to the another whereas others of you said that there is no way to truly feel what the other person is going through; that, even if you experienced a similar event (be it achieving a milestone or experiencing a loss), there is no real way to know what the other is thinking and feeling without asking the person - "that you can't read the bubble above the person's head" - as Mr. Waldman aptly put it to us. 
      We then saw a very powerful video on empathy (I encourage you to watch it with your parents and non-KSA friends). Two observations came from it: that feeling empathy toward another is not just for sad times, but for all occasions (the birth of a child, for example); and, that when watching the video, in spite of not knowing any of the people in the video, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU said that you "felt" something toward one or more of the people. That's putting yourself in someone else's shoes, be it just a twinge, just a moment of emotion. That's what Mrs. Cohen, Mr. Waldman, the rest of your teachers, and your parents, believe in. That unique human quality of "feeling toward others" and that characteristic that God gave to Adam & Eve and thus to every human on this planet is in each of you. Yet, what truly makes us empathetic is that the adults in your world teach you from day 1 to feel for others. This is what it means to be created in God's image, for He truly feels for us (He may not show it in an obvious way, but I do believe that God does care for us and we are to emulate that trait with our fellow human beings). 

As we move forward this year, please keep this lesson in mind. When you see a friend, classmate, a Kehillah member, another KSA student smiling or upset or worried - stop for a moment and ask yourself, "If I were feeling like he/she is, how would I want to be treated? Would I want to receive a smile? Would I want to be asked how I was or if something was wrong or why was I so excited?" In doing so, you connect with your fellow human beings and demonstrate the gift of empathy that God gave us and that your parents and teachers help you enhance. And that, is worth more than all the gold in the world.

Shabbat Shalom,

Mr. M.