Moving from me to we. Fostering empathy and compassion.
It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about us.
We’re here for a very brief period. Although we are ultimately responsible only for ourselves, we do not walk alone on this earth. We rely on each other for companionship and survival.
I live in Newtown, CT and have many questions stemming from the mass murder that occurred here. I never imagined it could happen here, in my neighborhood. Violence is not as remote as it once was. I continue to be horrified, angry, and feel profound sadness for the victims, their families and each degree of separation outward from this massive epicenter. How did we as a country, a community, a neighborhood, a family, a person, allow this to happen? Obviously, no one with implicit knowledge of what would occur would have allowed such an unspeakable act. You wonder about all the potential steps along the way of a person’s life where someone could have changed one thing that may have made a difference and kept the killer from picking up a gun that day or any day. Could the course of events have been altered to the extent that this tragedy possibly would never have happened?
It felt like we as a society have failed so many people along the way, and in small ways we fail a little every day. We also succeed in small ways every day. Can we increase our successes and decrease our failures at a more rapid pace in our struggle to creating cultural change and a more peaceful world?
I see this cultural change as moving from a “me” to “we” attitude and it echoes the golden rule of treating others as we would like to be treated. Of course we need to do what’s best for us and our families. We’re all facing the same basic needs to survive, minimize pain and finding meaning in our lives. If these are the fundamental forces in our journey, can’t we seek happiness and meaning not just for ourselves and our families, but also for our neighbors, our community, and our country? Increasing happiness and/or minimizing pain around us, directly and indirectly, would bring us more happiness, no? While I may be the center of my universe, I can still empathize and have compassion for others.
Think of this as a progression that starts with internal reflection and a determination of what kind of world you want to live in; who or what do you want to surround yourself with? We can share our stories and values within our families, then outward with our friends, then our social circles and eventually these different social circles can start to overlap. These concentric circles ripple outward from ourselves, like drops of rain in a puddle. As the rain increases, these individual concentric rings radiate outward, like our social circles, and overlap with each other. A sense of what it is to be human, to share the same values and desires, to curb our judgement and labeling of others as different from ourselves and to lead by example. Radiating our humanness outward to all we come in contact with is contagious and can make a real and lasting difference. This has the potential to create broader cultural change that starts with each of us, from the ground up. We make a choice to live in a more positive, cooperative and collaborative way of life.
On most days, as I try to put this concept into practice, my behavior has changed in a few ways. I try to show my love for my wife and kids more often. I try to be more patient with myself and others. When I ask people how they are, I am genuinely interested. I try to be a better listener. I try to understand another’s point of view, especially if it’s different than mine and even though I may not agree with them in the end. I try to smile more. I’m more outgoing and friendly, not only to people I know but also to strangers. I offer more handshakes, hugs and warm greetings. I try to get to know people I don’t already know and to know the people I do know, better. I offer help more often. When I disagree or question someone’s actions, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and remind myself that they are doing their best to survive and get through this journey as best they can, just like me.
Let’s pick our heads up from our mobile devices and our social media pages and start actual conversations. Let’s listen, really listen, to other’s stories and try to better understand each other. If we do this, we may realize that we are much more alike than we are different. We can focus on the 80% we have in common and then discuss where our views differ, leaving more chance for open dialogue and questions. We can choose not to engage the people who make up the fringes or extremes of various debates, where walls barring communication are quick to rise. Instead, we can engage the vast majority of people who are open to other perspectives and actively seek to understand each other.
SODINA’s aim is to bring awareness to the scope, scale and proximity of violence in this country through telling stories as a way of building empathy, compassion and connectedness. If nothing else, if you come away with a more open mindset, feel less judgement toward others, and have more empathy, compassion or a better appreciation for what someone else has endured or is enduring you will have succeeded. If you’re left wondering what you can do, please consider the various organizations highlighted on SODINA’s website and get involved.
To use The Avielle Foundation’s tagline: You Can Imagine™ a sense of greater connectedness and less violence, can’t you?
Tell us what you think: Can you see this mindset making a positive difference in your circles? What can we do to foster this cultural change? Can you share examples of this communication shift in action?
The Sodina Project shares stories to foster connection and save lives. This grass-roots movement needs your help in connecting with others. Please share the stories and blog posts with your friends and social networks if they have moved you or made you reflective. You will find sharing options at the end of each post.
If you have a story to share about the death of a loved one as a result of violence, please submit your story here.
Sodina | Voices to Stop Violence
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