Empathy truly is the starting point of oh so many things.
I just read an article on Upworthy about empathy, which was actually paid for by Hallmark for their “Care Enough Initiative.” No matter who paid for it I thought the list included in the article was rather good. Unfortunately it was written for the upcoming holiday. I say unfortunately as I believe lists such as this one should be appropriate for any time of the year.
Feel free to check the article “Forget the Mannequin Challenge – Try the Empathy Challenge this Holiday Season”
On thing that I wholeheartedly agree with is “In many ways, we are the center of our own worlds. “
It is true that we see things our own ways depending upon our experiences, what we read, what news reports we watch or listen to, how we interact with others, and of course, our own small communities. Most of us associate with those like us, such as our religions or our cultures and we rarely venture out to others.
But there are other beliefs, there are other cultures and certainly other religions. And yet we know so little of those if they are outside our realm of reality.
But learning to have at least a small amount of empathy can certainly help us to learn and possibly understand how others might think and feel.
And in fact showing some empathy toward others helps make them feel appreciated and heard and can actually help lift them up just a bit. Just as someone showing you a bit of empathy will do the same for you.
The article mentioned above provided a 31 day challenge to being on December 1. The list was good, however, it is my feeling that challenges such as this should not be limited to a specific time of year.
And so below I have revised the “31 Day Challenge of Empathy” that can be used any time of year. And honestly, it does not have to be done in any specific order. Sometimes challenges such as this should be used just as guidelines to be used when opportunities arise.
Day 1: Compliment a stranger.
Day 2: When you disagree with someone, ask them to explain what they mean. Peek into their thought process.
Day 3: Don’t shy away from tough conversations. Have a relative or friend who is saying something offensive? Gently let them know. Discuss it.
Day 4: Make an effort to carry a few dollars on you to give to someone who is homeless this week.
Day 5: Never carry cash? Grab an extra sandwich in the store and offer it to a homeless person when they ask for help.
Day 6: Make an effort to consume news that isn’t tailored to your leanings. Facebook is great, but it can keep us in our bubbles. Go to a news site. Read a few articles there. Chances are, you’ll learn a new perspective.
Day 7: Go gift shopping with a friend. See how much thought they’re putting into gift selection, and remember that it’s not about the things we get, it’s about the people in our lives.
Day 8: Someone make you angry? Pause. Walk away from the situation. Then ask yourself how they might be feeling. Assume good intentions, even if the execution was upsetting.
Day 9: There are lots of kids who aren’t able to celebrate the holiday season or birthdays or other special occassions with their families. Stop by a local orphanage or foster care center and drop off little treats like cookies or toys. Let them know you care.
Day 10: Watch a documentary on another culture to understand a lifestyle that is completely different from yours.
Day 11: Put the emphasis on traditions and being together — and less on gifts. You never know what someone’s financial situation is. Removing the obligation will make the holidays that much more enjoyable.
Day 12: Did someone’s smile or kind words brighten your day? Tell them that.
Day 13: Ask someone how their day is going, and prod them to actually answer. And then listen.
Day 14: Read through “Aesop’s Fables” again for small reminders about the ways our interactions affect other people.
Day 15: Send someone you’ve lost touch with a note saying, “Just Because.” It’s a small gesture, but it lets them know you’re thinking of them, and it may rekindle that friendship.
Day 16: Volunteer at a food bank and talk to the families it serves.
Day 17: Leave a thank-you note at your favorite cafe or restaurant to spread a little cheer.
Day 18: Ask an elderly person if they’d like help carrying their groceries.
Day 19: Go to a cafe, put your phone away, and people-watch. You’ll be surprised to notice the assumptions you make and how wrong those assumptions can be.
Day 20: Call your parents. Ask them how their day went. Tell them that you love them. Show them that you care. Or if your parents are no longer with you, perhaps call a relative.
Day 21: Lucky enough to still have your grandparents in your life? Give them a call too. Or better yet, if you’re able, stop by unexpectedly and just hang out.
Day 22: Borrowing a friend’s car to run some holiday errands? Don’t forget to top off the gas. Giving gas money is helpful, but filling the tank is even more appreciated.
Day 23: You work with your coworkers every day and face a number of challenges together. Tell them you appreciate them.
Day 24: Live in an area where parking is tough? Ask your neighbor if they need your parking spot if they’re unloading gifts or groceries.
Day 25: Does one person in your family usually do all the cooking? Help them out. Stay in the kitchen, tell them stories, and dive in to help make a dish or clean up.
Day 26: Treat a loved one to a day of their “favorites”: favorite breakfast, favorite movie, favorite restaurant. Make it their day.
Day 27: Write New Year’s cards for the people in your life. Some you may be in touch with every day, others you may have lost contact with. Tell them you appreciate them and wish them the best in the new year. Remember this can be done anytime of the year!
Day 28: Talk to someone from a different culture. Ask them about their holiday, or other special occassion traditions. Learn about their experiences.
Day 29: See a kid throwing a tantrum in the middle of a store? Don’t stare. The parents are having a hard enough time as it is.
Day 30: Take a deep breath when you’re driving. Traffic is going to suck. But everyone has somewhere to go. You’re all in it together.
Day 31: Talk to a stranger. Ask them about their day and where they’re from. You’d be surprised what a simple “hello” can lead to.
Showing empathy toward others and of course visa versa can bring a bit of happiness and perhaps even a bit of hope into the lives of others.