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The Powerful Ripples of Empathy

One of my favourite quotes is from author Laurel Thatcher, “History is a shouting match between the past and the present. But the voices we most want to hear ——- we need to hear, are barely audible.” In 2020 we now understand that the HIS in history reflects that history for centuries was dominantly written by and for men, and more than that, through a lens of privilege and power. And even worse than that, through a predominantly white lens. We’re continuing to learn that allowing one perspective to craft our understanding of world events, or our understanding of well, everything is simply dangerous. Bias, both conscious and unconscious is woven into how events are interpreted and viewed at every level. Society is beginning to understand that those biases are at the core of how every aspect of our world is wired, and that’s not good for anyone of us, especially those who are marginalized. I often speak about the power of empathy as another way, for me, the ultimate way, to view the world and those around us. I believe that empathy is the basis for mutual understanding and for how we respond to each other. It’s a powerful tool for humanity, for unity and for rebuilding what is broken. In a world of seven billion people, it's easy to believe that the only way to initiate profound transformation is to take extreme action, led mostly by governments and large powerful institutions.....empathy sounds too soft and mushy to be impactful. It’s far from that. One of the best references to empathy I found was from a 19th century poet named Henry David Thoreau.  In his quote, he asks a simple question – “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each others eyes even for an instant?” To look through each others eyes, is to experience another person’s condition  -  circumstance - lived experience. Understanding the world from their perspective.   Think about that—- whether they are your, loved ones, friends, neighbours, patients, clients —— and evening more so, your enemy —— imagine what would happen if we could look through the eyes of another to feel what they feel, understand their insecurities, their vulnerabilities and their fears —— how could we not be transformed? How could that not influence how we respond? Everything we do and think affects the people in our lives, and their reactions in turn affect others. As the effect of a seemingly insignificant word passes from person to person, its impact grows and can become a source of great joy, inspiration, anxiety, or pain. It creates a ripple in the pool of humanity and it will flow like all energy does, whether it’s positive or negative, it will ripple through the planet. If we understood that, we will find almost every time that the victimizer has been the victim and the victim has victimized. I admit that I myself have been both. I acknowledge both the love and the pain I have sent out in ripples throughout my life. If we understood how our actions feel, the impact of our words, our choices workplace interactions, chats at the curb side, in the grocery stores, in our institutions and in seats of power....would we be more mindful and choose more carefully? We are learning the hard way that even the best intentions can cause harm, and the scale of harm can be generational especially when it’s perpetuated by governments and institutions. The impacts are everywhere. Time continues to demonstrate that assumptions about others can be dangerously misguided. And the hard truth is that empathy has never been needed more than it is today. I believe in my core that empathy leads to grace —- and grace in humanity is a rarified, powerful holy grail that leads to love. And love is the antidote to fear, anger, hatred and conflict. Love is the ripple, steeped in empathy and grace that I pledge to make. Join me, together we can change everything.

Peggy Taillon President and Founder HERA Mission  613-769-5499  @heramission 

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