The Importance of Empathy

One of the many challenges posed by COVID-19 is that the measures required to stop its spread seem to go against being friendly and welcoming. In normal circumstances, most of us would never think twice about shaking hands with new acquaintances, welcoming friends into our homes or sharing our belongings, but these practices now pose a risk. Unfortunately, social distancing really is causing social distancing.
In a recent virtual event with our new Greenwood parents, I acknowledged the difficulties faced by new families as a result of these safety measures. It is hard not to have opportunities to come into the school as a parent, and to join a new community as a new student in our current circumstances. Please know that we will continue to look for ways to help our new families build relationships in the coming weeks.
Polarization seems more prevalent to me these days, and maybe physical distancing has a hand in that, too. The US election and sentiment about COVID-19 are two issues that seem to have polarized people. As Greenwood’s Principal, I am searching for ways to build empathy rather than hate. By appreciating our differences and learning from one another, we can deepen awareness of our own personal biases, value our authentic selves, and be allies and advocates. Our choices are impacting those around us daily, and we can all make a difference by consciously and purposefully choosing inclusion.
I was recently encouraged by Dylan Marron’s TED Talk about empathy, and by his mantra that “Empathy is not endorsement.” As Dylan explains, “Empathizing with someone you profoundly disagree with does not suddenly compromise your own deeply held beliefs and endorse theirs...It just means that I’m acknowledging the humanity of someone who was raised to think very differently from me.”
On Monday, I was extremely inspired by Michelle Glied-Goldstein. As part of our Holocaust Education Week, Michelle told the story of her father, Bill Glied, a Holocaust survivor. Michelle recorded an interview with Bill in which he told his harrowing story in order to preserve it for future generations, and she graciously shared that story with all of us at Greenwood. The atrocities Bill experienced are unfathomable; however, at the end of his interview, he shared a message of optimism that gave us hope.
“It’s not about justice for the past. It’s about justice for the future,” Bill said. He believed in a better future, and encouraged us all to do our part to make it happen. “Do one good thing every day,” he recommended. “Because if we all did one good thing, we could make the world a better place.”
Doing one good thing for our health is another goal for our Greenwood community members as we embrace MOVEmber. It’s time for all of us to get moving and use physical activity to support our mental health. I am on a Staff Activity Challenge team with three fellow staff members, and I need to do my part to earn some points for my team (this accountability just might work). I hope that your child is finding ways through DPA, physical education classes, intramurals or the MOVEmber goals to get moving through safe activities. The goal for students is to track 60km of activity in the month of November. (Family members, please consider joining the MOVEmber movement and partaking in this challenge.)

Greenwood College School

443 Mount Pleasant Road
Toronto, ON M4S 2L8
Tel: 416 482 9811