I’ve been seeing a post around around a lot that is just a list of a bunch of different foods. It said “How picky are you?” and you were suppose to cross off all the foods you refuse to eat. Seeing it  made me really happy. I looked through and saw that about half the list would have been crossed off during my early years and on through my teens. 

The happiness didn’t come because now I can enjoy more food and eat whatever I want, but more as a question: How does this correlate to the principle of EMPATHY?  I asked myself, “If these were types of people and not food items, how much of the list would be crossed off?” For example, what if “broccoli” was to be replaced with “homeless”? What if it were “the addict”? What if it were “the weird kid at school”? Any of the people that come to mind with whom we can have a difficult time “enjoying their flavor”?

Would we still have only 5 items crossed off? I would have to say no! What if they were Muslims, or Atheists, or Christians? Alcoholics, gays, prudes or “lazy millennials”? Do we have what it takes enjoy a gourmet dish presented before us? Or do we choose to pick apart, judge and grimace at the beautifully arrayed dish we have laid before us and say, “I can’t stomach that!” Do we find ourselves using quick judgments toward those people even just in the thoughts running through our minds? Are we choosing to truly see the “dish” with our hearts? Do we have what it takes to DIGEST the lesson that is presented to us on a daily basis? Are we willing to empathize and learn to appreciate the delicacy placed before us? 

I have difficulties with many of these stereotypes that are presented in life; Things that I grew up gagging on because I did not have the core strength to stomach them. I chose to react, instead of courageously acting as I wanted to. I threw them up and made huge messes of the relationships that have been placed before me. I still do, sometimes. 

Empathy comes through experience and belief in the stories of others. You have the power to choose your experiences and to influence others’ experiences of you.  

And now the challenge: What “food item” are you gagging with right now? What label do you find that you give the type of person you’re personally not feeling much understanding, empathy, or desire to associate with? 

Find someone who fits that stereotype or label and have a conversation with them. If that challenge is not resonating with you, or you are feeling some resistance, try writing a back and forth conversation asking the questions as yourself and then responding as though you were in their shoes. See what changes. Tell me your stories and experiences!

-Benjamin Beals 

YFF Session 1 Director

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