Sunday, November 16, 2008

How I Was Taught Empathy

I remember getting a stuffed animal for Christmas one year when I was probably 6ish. It was a beige dog that looked as if it were sleeping. For some reason I wasn't that thrilled with this little dog. It's head was a little floppy, and since it was sleeping, it didn't really lead to a lot of imaginative play.

My sister and I would usually get identical gifts when we were younger, but my sister seemed to like her floppy sleeping pup. When she caught on that I didn't really like mine, she taught me something I'll never forget.

That something was that even inanimate objects have feelings too.

My sister laid a guilt trip on me so thick about how this little dog was so sad that I didn't love it, and how all it wanted was some attention. The poor thing was just thrown aside and neglected and now it's feelings were deeply hurt. It couldn't help it if it was made sleeping and floppy, but it deserved to be loved just the same.

Well, I felt horrible after that! Who wouldn't? So I named this little dog "Puppy" (I was original with names like that) and slept with that stuffed animal for at least the next 6 years. That soft little animal was loved and cherished like no other because I felt so bad about how I had treated it at the beginning.

That was really typical of my sister. She has always felt bad for the spiders that get squashed to the flowers that get plucked. Everything has feelings and a soul to her. Her unique perspective has led her to do dog rescue and fostering, and to being a strict vegetarian.

Last year I came across a Dr Seuss book called What Was I Scared Of. I fell in love with it at first read. It reminded me so much of my sister that I had to get her a copy too.

This is one of Dr Seuss' books that's not that well known. It's about a dude (for lack of a better word for the Seuss character) who is just going about his business when he gets spooked by some "pale green pants with nobody inside them". It seems these pants are kind of stalking him when he's just going about his errands, and it's becoming more and more unnerving to him, so much so that he hides in a brickle bush for 2 nights straight.

The next thing you know this guy has to go to a gloomy field and pick a peck of snide, "then I reached inside a snide bush, and the next that I knew, I felt my hand touch someone, and I bet that you know who". And then there's my favorite line, "and there I was caught in the snide,
and in that dreadful place, those spooky empty pants and I were standing face to face".

And finally after much screaming and shrieking on the dude's part, this happens, "but then a strange thing happened, why those pants began to cry, those pants began to tremble, they were just as scared as I" because, "...I was just as strange to them, as they were strange to me."

Then the best part (the part that channels my sister), "I put my arm around their waist, and sat right down beside them. I calmed them down, poor empty pants with nobody inside them." Gosh, I really felt for those pants! It's hard to make friends when you're just a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside you!

It all ends happily with the Seuss-dude and the empty pants smiling and being friendly whenever they cross each other's paths after that.

Thanks, Big Sis for teaching me empathy. Stuffed puppies, empty pants, spiders, I've never seen them the same way since.


LisAway said...

Great post, Moody! I love this.

I remember having those same feelings as a kid, feeling bad for lesser used objects and stuff. Hopefully that kind of empathy makes empathy for people even stronger.

I love Dr. Seuss. Have you read Oh the Places You'll Go? That's another wonderful one that's also not really geared toward children as much. I love how Dr. Seuss used his talents to both entertain and teach and he did a wonderful job of it! I'll have to see if I can get my hands on the one about the dude (loved that, perfect word for a Seuss character) and the pants with nobody inside them.

Rose said...

Aw, that's so sweet! I never feel bad for the spiders, though :-)

Emy5 said...

Moody, I can tell that you and your sister have a great relationship. Dr Seuss is a wonderful writer. Love his books and the life lessons they teach.

Ally said...

Awwwwwwww. :-)


That sounds like a great book! Thanks for the recommendation.

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