How to Teach Empathy through Stories.
Stories are powerful. It’s easier to connect with someone who openly shares a personal story with you, over someone who just offers facts about their lives. Stories connect us and enable us to let down our defenses and be vulnerable. That’s why they can be such an effective tool for teaching empathy. If you want to do that with your kids, or even in the work place I encourage you to take the risk.
Here’s one example:
A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.
“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.”
“Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.”
The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer.
“I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?” “Sure,” said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle. “Here, Dolly!” he called.
Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up…
“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.”
With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”
With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup.
What an amazing example of putting yourself in someone else shoes. Stories are the gateway to empathy. If you’d like more resources, I’ve put some links in the notes below. And let’s remember what it says in 1 John 3:18…
Dear children, let’s not merely say we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:18 (NLT)
What are your thoughts on empathy? Comment below
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Further Stories on Empathy:
You Are Special by Max Lucado
We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
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