Friday, July 15, 2011

Week 4 - Empathy

Courageous. Content. Overwhelmed. Happy. Peaceful. Frustrated. How are you feeling today? More than that, who's the person you know you can go to when you're feeling however you're feeling and you know they'll totally get how you're feeling? Yesterday was the fourth week of the Village Art Project, and we focused on the first "E" of our C.R.E.A.T.E. Community theme - Empathy! Now I know it's easy to mix up sympathy and empathy, but after last night I'm sure that any of the kids there would be able to tell you for sure what empathy is (even if they could not tell you what sympathy is :P). Empathy is a vital part of community because it is at this point that we are able to experience deep connection with one another. When you get me and I get you - when you know how I feel because you've been there and you know how that situation made you feel so you can identify with me. Empathy is about learning to see life through another person's eyes; trying to understand what it's like to walk in another person's shoes. At the heart of empathy is opening up our minds and hearts, listening carefully to another person express their feelings, and validating that person by trying to understand how they feel. There isn't one person in this world who does not need empathy. When we let down our guards, let go of judgments, and step into another person's world, we learn a great deal about them as well as about ourselves. Empathy is so valuable to community because when we begin to learn about the ups and downs of someone's life, we are able to see them just like we see ourselves - as human! To see that there's more to them than meets the eye and maybe, just maybe, there's a reason that person that we dislike so much acts the way they do and maybe, just maybe, they need a little bit of love and a friend rather than judgment and rejection.
Thursday began with a lot of music - homemade, original music - as the kids played drums and other instruments brought in from CMU by our friend Mike List. Mike led the drum circle and kids and volunteers pounded on drums and played cowbells and other instruments that I don't even know the names of. There might have even been a little bit of dancing :) After the drum circle, the kids paired up and painted on one half of a divided canvas. The idea was to think about one specific feeling that you identify with often or that has been significant throughout your life and paint it using mostly colors and shapes. After that, the kids traded canvases with their partners who then had to try to enter in to what emotion their partner's painted and replicate their partner's painting on the other side of the canvas. We had an uneven number of kids so I ended up being partners with Skye, and let me tell you this was way harder than it sounded when Rob first explained it! The kids really did a spectacular job though! They really tried to focus on the detail in each other's paintings and to do justice to their partner's original work. At snack time some of the kids shared their art with the rest of the group. The feelings ranged from pain reflected with a darkened heart to feeling ignored and also loved. Check out the pictures to see some of the artwork!
The second half of the night we split up into groups of 4-5 and went to various houses throughout the Village to interview some of the residents about one of the happiest times in their lives and also one of the most disappointing times in their lives. With tape recorders in hand the kids and adults gathered on front porches and at kitchen tables to share their stories with each other and to practice empathy. In my group we only got through the "happiest" stories, but it was a valuable time for me and I'm pretty sure for the kids as well. We focused on listening so well to one another that we were able to repeat the other person's story and understand how they were feeling. I didn't realize there were so many different kinds of happy, but the stories reflected a "relieved" sense of happy, a "just being with friends" sense of happy, a "having fun" happy, a "never thought this would ever happen" sort of happy, and a "fulfilled" sense of happy. Afterwards, the kids took a portrait shot of the person(s) they interviewed, and then took turns taking a picture of each other in the same pose as the person they interviewed, so they actually got to sit or stand in someone else's life for a moment.
It was a beautiful, joyful night focused on empathy and as always the kids were amazing! May the God who understands us give us the willingness and the ability to enter into the lives of those we love and those we have a hard time loving, into the joy and into the pain. Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment