George Stewart has challenged us. “Together We Rise!”
I interpret this to mean building on each other’s strengths. But there is more to it than that. It means stepping out of what might be our comfort zone, and making a connection with someone else. We can’t build collective efficacy without trust, empathy and relationship.
But what exactly does that mean? How can we do that? Some of us have experienced major loss. Some of us are feeling an anxiety we have never felt. Some of us feel like school will never be the same. Some of us are just bewildered and trying to get from one day to the next. But ALL OF US are impacted in some way by these unexpected and changing times. And ALL OF US have a role to play in taking back and transforming our ASFM experience - by reaching outwards - to each other.
Over the last decade, neuroscientists have identified a 10-section “empathy circuit” in our brains which, if damaged, can curtail our ability to understand what other people are feeling. Evolutionary biologists like Frans de Waal have shown that we are social animals who have naturally evolved to care for each other, just like our primate cousins. And psychologists have revealed that we are primed for empathy by strong attachment relationships in the first two years of life.
But empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation.
I would like to share with you the steps this article recommends to help us help ourselves by helping each other:
- Cultivate curiosity about others
- Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities
- Try another person’s life
- Listen hard and open up
- Inspire mass action and social change
- Develop an ambitious imagination
Perhaps, if each one of us could commit to trying to do just one thing on this list tomorrow, and start an intentional practice of building empathy on a daily basis, then a weekly basis and so on, we will have reinforced the social fabric for the cultural change we are seeking. We will have created the culture where
“EVERY CHILD ACHIEVES HIGH LEVELS OF SUCCESS.”
There is a lot of work to do, but it is good work. It is our work. By committing to opening up and reaching out to each other we can share the support, the skills and knowledge to make “Together We Rise!” a reality.
Director, Support Services