The Empathy Muscle

Megan, it makes me sad when my classmates feel like they're not loved. Because everyone should feel loved. And when they don't - they'll be really sad and commit suicide and that's not OK.

He's 12.

And I thought to myself, what happens between the years of twelve and adulthood that we stop caring about how much people are loved?

Of all the things in the world to fizzle and fade, why is empathy one of them?

For the past two weeks, I had the privilege and honor to teach two theatrical workshops to middle school students.

The program is called Project Hero, and no, it's not this hugs and butterflies and everyone stands around in a circle and sings kumbaya. 

It's a theatrical workshop teaching kids how to be more empathetic. It's a workshop that reminds them about what empathy is - and how to infuse that in their daily lives.

Because sometimes we forget that teaching empathy is just as important as math and science and English and history.

This program reminds students and faculties and schools about the importance of working the empathy muscle, and it's a beautiful thing.

Each and every year I marvel at what's like to be a middle school student in the digital age. Mean tweets and mean comments and laughter at the cost of someone else's pain swirl around the halls of the classrooms, following kids when they leave to go home.

It's nonstop for these children of the screen.

Screens for homework, screens for socializing - screens upon screens upon screens.

And somewhere amidst the glow of the latest apple product, they're forgetting how to talk to one another. They're forgetting how to feel.

And I go around in circles, trying to figure out how to fix it, how to make it better, how to heal and steel their hearts so that they can remember that the bits of humanity that keep us pulsing and beating are never found in 140 characters - but in the folds of someone's smile and the warmth of someone's hug.

Each and every year I marvel at what it's like to be a middle school kid, and then some of them blow me away with their sensitivity, their wisdom, and yes, their empathy.

Each and every year I wonder if my words will stick - if they'll find the courage in themselves to be people who feel for people, who care for people. who realize that the world needs more shoulders to cry on, and outstretched hands, and ears that will listen, and hearts that will love.

Each and every year I go into a classroom for Project Hero hoping to bring some light into the lives of these students, and they often bring such light into my own.