Exploring empathy

Exploring empathy

Our theme in January was Living with Intention. Each week we explored a different facet of intention with ideas for activities families could do together at home since we were not meeting in person. I’d like to share with you some of the picture books and stories I recommended this month to help children get a well-rounded perspective on Living with Intention.

When it comes to intentionally going about social change, one of the key things needed is empathy. When we can empathize with and have a personal experience around a social inequality, it activates our intention and our desire to change things. To explore empathy in the context of social change, I recommend the picture book New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer. In this story, a girl is upset because at the time the book takes place, in the 1950’s, black children and adults were not allowed to try on shoes at many shoe stores. It’s a great reminder about what the inequality of segregation was like. Click here for a read aloud (start at 0:44).

Living with intention also takes persistence and patience because living with intention is hard. Fulfilling our intentions of-ten takes a long time. And what happens when we try to do something that is hard? When we try to play a musical instrument, or fold origami, or try to memorize a poem? We have to take baby steps! And a long road only taking baby steps certainly requires persistence and patience. One of my favorite stories on this topic is Higgins: A Drop with a Dream by UU minister Christopher Buice.

Something else we need to do to live with intention is to accept mistakes. We need to acknowledge that good intentions can sometimes cause harm and accept that we have caused harm without defensiveness. We also have to be intentional about fixing our mistakes! A lovely children’s book on this topic is Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg, a story about making mistakes. If we learn from our mistakes, we can sometimes make them into something beautiful instead. Click for a video that presents the story as a song.

It is certainly our intention (see what I did there) to get back together in person as soon as the risk to ourselves and our community has reduced following this latest Omicron wave. Until then, my wish for you all is that you are finding small ways (or maybe big ways!) to connect and refresh during this exhausting ordeal. I can’t wait to be with you all again.


Karen Magoon Pearson is Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church's Director of Religious Education.