Not too long ago I was pouring over some of my old report cards from grade school…. yes… my mother kept EVERYTHING! I find it fascinating to peer backward in time. So much mental energy is spent trying to imagine the future. I have no crystal ball, not one that works, anyway. My teachers wrote little notes in the Comments section about me. “Conscientious” and “often keeps to herself” are phrases that seem to appear with frequency. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Ellis, wrote that I demonstrated empathy beyond my years. Wondering exactly what that little snippet might refer to, I spoke with my mother on the phone. We had read a biography of Hellen Keller, and I spent a couple of weeks squinting at the blackboard, and covering each eye in turn… testing, testing…. I was sent to the school nurse, just to be sure, but yes, everything was fine. I wonder if Mrs. Ellis had a crystal ball. That somehow, looking at the seven year old me, she knew that empathy would figure so prominently in my life as an adult.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines ’empathy’ as an “…identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.” It can also be defined as the “attribution of one’s own feelings to an object.” It’s a one way thing though, that’s for sure. ‘Sympathy’ implies a “been there done that” kind of deal. A two way street with mutual understanding and accord. Nope, I’m an empathizer for sure!