How I learnt to Empathize from my grand father

Times have evolved and so have we. All of us have goals in our lives. Little things we have learnt as a child have shaped us into being wonderful humans today. The wonderful celebrations of life have made very mesmerizing memories to muse for us.

A wise adage says: It takes a village to raise a child. And weren’t we practically raised playing on the streets or at our neighbor’s, only returning home to sleep. It always used to be an extended family setup with prying aunties and some moody or strict uncles. We humans are social animals. Our lives depend on other humans. We develop and learn about the world around us a lot viewing through the glasses of other people. Our connections to others are key to not only our survival, but also to our happiness. My grandpa lived through his 93 years and he was slightly hard of hearing post his octogenarian age. But he never missed taking his evening walks till he was about 90 years. And that was possible thanks to the support of our community as a whole. Every person, a vendor, a friend, the auto rickshaw drivers – child and grown up alike, knew my grandpa. And there had been days when a complete stranger had dropped him back home asking us to take care of him well due to his advanced age. I had chaperoned him a lot of times. He used to fondly wish almost every second person we passed and knew their names, inquired about their latest life happenings etc. A lot of times, It used to be a list of their current problems. It really used to be the most annoying thing for me then. On reflection, I can imagine the patience and empathy he had. He knew the local ticket guy at the cinemas to the Chief Minister of my place whom he used to call by name. And everyone has had some story to share with him. He was extremely resourceful in helping them touch base with the right person in case of any issues: Be it a govt. official or a temple priest or a particular doctor at the hospital. And the help was always collective. One must be cognizant that there was no Facebook or pictures to record those “timeline events”, “suggested connections”. He remembered every detail and was really happy and proud of being a part of community as an important person. It was in my relationship with my grandfather that I think I first internalized the full meaning of empathy.

It is the same world now, we are connected to people physically and virtually as well. What has actually changed is the way we deal with our life and people around us. But we barely know the very people who live around us or work with. We are racing against time to acquire knowledge about the world we live in through people via various medium. Despite all this assistance, there is barely any time to connect: be it within or with people we intend to really connect with. We live in a bubble of unreciprocated emotions.

In our ever-changing world, every new generation is precious. We have a moral obligation of passing good values to them. One such value I want to elucidate is Empathy. Our capacity to empathize starts very early in life. A toddler has his capacity to sense others’ emotions.  The child knows if we are happy or sad and one can even get an unexpected gesture of a warm hug or a kiss from the child (a gesture we had displayed earlier to her). And it’s not just toddlers: Infants as young as eight to 14 months old can show precursors to empathy, signs like displaying concern for a parent if they’re hurt or upset. The older we get, the more we can empathize.

The youth today are exhibiting a lot of deficiency in empathy which is evident through bullying, less tolerance towards differently abled, specially gifted and aged. I personally urge parents to help build a young society with more love and understanding. This can be done by fostering positive emotions towards a person in distress. This emotion is well encouraged in a more a family centered environment. Attention is focused on family as a whole, family’s choice and decision making are honored, strengths and capabilities of family members are highlighted, families are treated with respect. All I leave to ponder with the quote below.

A simple relevant video to watch.

The Empathic Civilisation

 If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. 

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird