Oct 23, 2012

Empathy

This is a trait that does not come naturally for most people. I believe it is something that is learned by experiencing first hand or observing those close to you who are giving or receiving it.   A few lucky ones are born with this gift of God imbedded into their souls.  It is looking out side of yourself and experiencing the pain, suffering, struggles of those around you as your own.

As a parent, I aim to teach our kids this lesson by example.  We talk about it frequently.  They've received it plenty.  But I don't think Gavin gained an appreciation for it until this week.  All the talking and seeing finally manifested into doing.  I couldn't be more proud.

Last week, Gavin had a very big report due that somehow got a little procrastinated.  We haven't done a formal investigation into how that could have possibly happened, but each parent has their own suspicions.   Thankfully, that wasn't the heart of the matter.  Gavin worked hard to research and write this report and then submitted himself to my ever demanding edits.  My critiques of his writing have always been a sore spot for him; always hard to take.  He takes it personally instead of academically.

We (Chuck & I) spent much time talking with him about his topic, presenting him with other ideas that might be useful to incorporate into his essay and leaving him with the choice as to what and how to incorporate all he's learned.  Children, even really big ones that think they already know everything, still need to be taught how to research, write, think critically and edit their own work.  Not much of that is being done in school.  After several days and nights of hard work, the essay was complete, all the hard work and revisions were worth it once he reviewed the finished product.  And he learned not only more about what he was researching, but about the method and whys and hows behind how to research.  Bonus!

Then steps in our neighbor, a sweet 15 year old kid who is intimated by essays, learning, reading, writing and anything other than basketball.  However, he sees that Gavin seems to have a handle on this essay writing thing and asks him to help him with his paper.  And Gavin says YES!  This is a huge step for mankind.  My son just showed empathy!  I've waited so long for this day.  Not that he's never showed empathy before, he shows it to me on almost a daily basis.  But now he has opened up his horizons and has shown empathy to someone he doesn't love or know very well and finds it worth while to help anyways.

The two boys spent the better part of Saturday and Monday working together to get a 3 page paper written.  Gavin didn't do it for him, but he did walk along side him and encourage, help and give advice when and where needed (he was also the official typist).   Thankfully, I was also asked to contribute the help of my beloved red pen to the first draft.  I was so proud of this kid.  He did something super hard for himself and came out stronger and more knowledgeable on the other side simply by humbling himself and asking for help.

I told Gavin I was very thankful that he chose to help this boy and he responds, "Ya, well, I know what it feels like to be stressed about a report."  Bingo!  It really came from the heart.  He's actually relating how he feels to how another person may feel and takes a course of action.  I may be more proud of this accomplishment than any grade or academic achievement he makes the rest of the school year.
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