A Lesson in Empathy…

I had a valuable lesson in compassion and empathy recently.

My nephew is the sweetest little boy. G has a sunny disposition and is cuddly and loving. He also drops into a tantrum at the smallest provocation and doesn’t always play well with other kids. He really is a wonderful kid but being his caregiver can be exhausting. You see, he has a genetic eye disorder that severely limits his eye sight.

The untrained eye would think he’s a perfectly normal child but the reason he doesn’t play well with other kids is because they may move into another room or be running outside and he can no longer see them and has no idea where they are. He may drop into a tantrum because he can find his special teddy bear, even though it’s lying in plain sight across the room.

Those of us who know better try our best to compensate and be understanding as to the reason he is upset but, even with that knowledge, it is easy to forget and get frustrated. APSEA (Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority), the group that works with G has done lost of really wonderful work preparing him for school and giving him tools that help him do things like read books and watch TV. What they did recently was a great move towards helping the people who love G, and who work with him, truly understand what he sees and how it impacts his life. They made special goggles that showed the adults in his life what he actually sees. It was an eye opening experience, to put it mildly. When I put on these glasses I could barely see to walk. Reading a book was next to impossible as I could only focus on on small part of a page while the rest was a blur. Walking was awkward and I felt sick to my stomach within seconds of putting on the goggles.

While essentially a trivial experience, as the goggles could not truly imitate what G goes through (he also has an eye shake), it was a powerful reminder of the need for empathy. It did give me some understanding of what the little guy faces (he’s only four) but, more importantly, it spoke to a greater need for more compassion in the world. We don’t all see the world the same way. Whether we’re talking about vision or about less tangible concepts, what’s perfectly clear for me may be a shaky blur to another.

So, thank you APSEA, it’s important to remember we don’t all see the world in the same way.

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