Exercises in Empathy #1


cc Empathy by [auro]

You can try this at your own time and convenience. Do the following in a public space:

Do something to help someone you do not know.

There are only two conditions to this step:

  1. It has to be simple – things that do not impede on whatever you are doing at that moment
  2. It has to be small – normal, every day things that no one else but you and the person you helped will notice.

If you are wondering what would be a small and simple task that can help others, here are a couple of examples.

Sometimes senior citizens or handicapped individuals struggle to open heavy doors. If you just walked ahead of someone older or handicapped who is getting to the same door as you, wait a couple minutes until they get to the door and open the door for them.

From my own personal experiment: The building I live in has a locked access door to the parking garage. Sometimes I see someone unloading bags of groceries from their car as I walk to the access door. It may take me a couple more minutes, but I hold open the access door until they can go by with both their hands full of grocery bags.

Two minutes. Holding open doors. How easier can small and simple get? :-)

Now, ponder these questions:

  • How did you come upon this situation? Did it require you to become more aware of your surroundings? Would you have noticed this before? Why or why not?
  • What happened to the person you helped? Did they acknowledge you? Did you get any clues or visual cues of how your help affected them?
  • What happened to you? How did their behavior affect your attitude and for how long?
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