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What My Son Taught Me About Kindness and Empathy

Jul. 7, 2015 Huffington Post

My almost 6-year-old son is currently obsessed with Star Wars and Harry Potter. I know he’s young, but the movies and books bring up topics for us to sort through all the time — tough topics. I take these opportunities to have the hard talks together. We read the books together; we watch the movies together. We’ve talked about many things that some parents of a 5-year-old might not talk about, but I want to have these conversations with my son, not leave them up to chance or for someone else to have with him.

Today, it was rainy and when the baby took her nap, I allowed him to pop in a Star Wars movie as a reward for being so kind this morning to his sister who is feeling a little under the weather. As I was folding laundry, I said to him, very nonchalantly, “Wow, that Darth Vader really creeps me out.” My son’s grey blue eyes got big, and with his mouth agape, he chided me: “Mama, Darth Vader has good in him. I know he’s on the dark side, but he isn’t all bad.” This launched us into a conversation about good versus evil and how goodness can be found in anyone if we only look hard enough.

For the past week, I feel like I have been tested with various examples of people simply not being nice. And some people were rude for no apparent reason. A nurse was short with me on the phone when I called for a prescription; a person beeped her car horn, leaning out the car’s window to yell at us when I hesitated, lost in thought, at a stop light that had turned green; another person threw his hands up in the air when the walk sign turned for us to cross a busy intersection but they didn’t see the flashing walk sign, signally for us to walk. Little ears were listening in on all of those instances and after doing my best to be nice on the phone call with the nurse, I hung up and said to my husband, “Wow, what was wrong with her?! She was so rude.” My kind and gentle boy said, “Mama, we all have a bad day. All you can do is be nice to her and maybe she will be nice back.” This child teaches me lessons every day, and all we can do is treat people with kindness, as hard as it might be.

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