When I first started writing on the topic of empathy and non-judgement, a story came to mind. Several years ago I was teaching a group of first grade children in a Jewish Sunday school. I often read to the class, and was doing an introduction before I was going to read a book about prayer, and how Jewish people pray. I encouraged the class to respond to the question, “What do we say after we hear a prayer?” The response I was looking for was, “Amen,” which simply means, I agree. In fact, I hadn’t even thought about an alternate response. Leave it to a six year old to change my thinking.
I noticed one young boy, practically leaping out of his skin, while still seated and quiet, but he wanted to answer the question so desperately. I was excited because this particular child was generally very quiet, and rarely spoke in class. I called on him, and he excitedly responded, “Namaste!!”
I paused for a moment, then complimented him on his answer. Of course, I had to explain to the rest of the class the meaning of Namaste. Namaste means, “The divine in me bows to, or acknowledges, the divine in you.” That simple word means and conveys so much. It totally derailed my lesson, but picking up on the opportunity, I explained to the class that we are all human beings, interconnected in the universe. Whether you call that god, the great spirit, or universal truth, or any of hundreds of other things, Namaste acknowledges that we are all connected and we are all special. We all deserve each other’s respect.
Respect for others is what really, on a deep level, prompted me to begin this blog. There are many ways we can show respect. Acknowledging people as people first, created in the same way we all were, is a big step in the journey to respect. Peeling back the curtain on a person who is angry, or a person who uses a wheelchair, or a person who is an addict, or a person with fame or fortune, under all the labels, we are all just people.
No one started their life as a baby wanting to have an invisible illness, or a learning challenge, or mental illness. No one began their life angry or violent. We all started as innocent babies, grew into innocent young children, and eventually into teen or adulthood. We all started with a spark of the divine, or interconnectedness to each other, and that never goes away.
When we feel our anger or resentment welling up inside us, and we all do on occasion, if we can pause for a moment, and think, Namaste, Amen, perhaps we can be a little more patient, and have a little more empathy for others instead of rushing to judgement.