Sunday, October 28, 2012


Recently, I read The Tale of Despereaux (Kate DiCamillo). A short read about a little mouse named Despereaux who is on a great quest. And on his quest, we meet the Princess Pea and Miggery Sow. At one point, Miggery holds the Princess at knife-point and marches her to the dungeon so that she can become the new princess (pg. 198):

"And what of the princess's heart? Reader, I am pleased to tell you that the Pea was a kind person, and perhaps more important, she was empathetic. Do you know what it means to be empathetic?

"I will tell you: It means that when you are being forcibly taken to a dungeon, when you have a large knife pointed at your back, when you are trying to be brave, you are able, still, to think for a moment of the person who is holding the knife.

"You are able to think: 'Oh poor Mig, she wants to be a princess so badly and she things that this is the way. Poor, poor Mig. What must it be like to want something that desperately?

"That, reader, is empathy."

And that, friends, is not a trait that comes easily to most of us. But one I'm continually seeking to understand: how can I stand so firmly on these issues (on this belief, on this opinion) and still hear and learn and want to better understand the other side? I've found no easy answer.

But I do believe that part of this process comes from continually vowing to listen. Even if it sounds funny. Even if I think I know the answer. Listen anyway. This is why I'll often hop over to the "other" sides political website or read a blog about an issue that is exactly counter to my own. I don't always come away thinking, "Oh, now I get it," but I do often come away remembering that they believe equally, if not more adamantly, that what they believe is right and true and absolute and the best belief for them.

I come away being a little more like Princess Pea and her ability to consider the thoughts and feelings of another, even when it feels wrong, even when it's hard. We're all driven to believe the way we do and each of our willingness to explore another perspective, takes us one step closer to true empathy and understanding.