Empathy at work- Megan Handley

I decided to do my empathy intervention on someone that has always caught my attention, yet I never reflected on why she does. I work at a state-funded preschool downtown SLO, where only one of the students comes from a stable home. Whether it’s foster care, they don’t have a bed to sleep on, or their parents are in jail, each child comes from a tough life at home with a lot of social services involved. Everyday I have to watch the kids leave the doors of the safe preschool to a completely different world. There is one mom, Gwen, who I have always been curious about, based off of her tattoos and knowing her child who I have a close bond with. I thought she would be the perfect person to empathize for. I asked my coworkers about her, and that’s when I knew I needed to reflect. I was told that Gwen is has completely recovered from a heroin addiction and got custody of Samantha (her daughter) over a year ago. She is a single mom and has worked hard to get a job, about a month ago. I always thought she was too calm, for having such an energetic (and adorable) daughter and it constantly made me suspicious. Instead of judging her for being once addicted to heroin and for being too calm for an energetic daughter, I rationalized and admired her. Last week after preschool, I decided to walk to their car with them, where I saw how she really interacted with her daughter and realized her daughter is her everything, her light. We talked about the farmers market, and that that’s Sammy’s favorite day of the week so Gwen never forgets to take her. She attunes to Sam’s love, but in an admirable and motherly way. She also worked hard to get custody of her daughter back, and being a single mom, that’s a very complicated and long process which I never realized. Having this new admiration for Gwen, I feel closer to her daughter and now more involved in her life too. She is a shy woman, but before school and after school we almost always have a friendly conversation. Even though people make poor decisions, their past does not indicate their current motives. Empathy can highlight the exact reason you are judging and create an even stronger connection to the thing you were otherizing.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *