Teaching Empathy Through Tragedy

Teaching Empathy

In the past two weeks, our community has suffered immense tragedy. So many families have lost a lifetime of memories and are now struggling to return to normalcy. As the waters receded, and even still now, the demand for basic human necessities (food, water, shelter, clothing) have been high. My family has been immensely blessed as our home was not directly impacted by the flooding. As we watched in horror as surrounding communities were submerged in destructive flood waters, we counted our blessings and immediately began searching for ways to give back and help others who were in need. As a parent, I couldn’t even fathom evacuating (many by boat) with small children, let alone, attempting to explain the loss of possessions and the place we called home. My heart breaks for so many families in this situation.

As news of the destruction continued to unfold, I found this devastating time a perfect opportunity to teach my four-year-old lessons in giving back and empathy. While many tasks in the days immediately following the floods required the assistance of adults, I channeled much of our energy and resources into projects that would allow my daughter to participate. While we cleaned out closets in search of donations, baked cookies for those who needed a snack, and bagged lunches to provide for others, we discussed the many things we have to be grateful for and ways in which we can help others in need during times of tragedy and always.

My daughter had many questions as we drove through demolished neighborhoods distributing food and supplies. We addressed the massive loss that many have endured but focused on the positive aspects of how we can help those affected recover as quickly as possible. Nowadays, the media is filled with stories of  violence, destruction and loss but often fails to mention that humanity is still alive and well and will continue to be by teaching our children the important lessons of humility, gratitude and empathy. Typically, I try to shield my children from events that may be difficult for their young hearts to digest but this event, affecting our community and IMG_2025friends, was more personal. Passing pile after pile of debris, many including toys and other children’ items, removed from flooded homes, struck a chord with my young daughter and gave her a first hand view of what a difference could be made by giving a little of ourselves and our possessions. She watched as strangers hugged us, thanking us profusely for simple needs that we helped them meet. She cheerfully donated her own items that we no longer needed to those who had lost everything. She eagerly bagged lunches to be distributed to those working so hard to recover their lives and memories that had washed away.

 

Now, as our community begins to recover from the devastation, we continue to give to those affected as we are able. The sense of pride and togetherness has never been more apparent in Baton Rouge despite the circumstances. Maybe this overwhelming sense of compassion is the bright spot that will continue to shine as our city recovers. Years from now, I know my young daughter and many other children won’t remember the destruction caused by these historic floods, but I can only hope that she will remember the life lessons of gratitude, empathy and giving that this difficult time has taught her.

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