By AJ Topps, AmeriCorps Member, Lincoln Financial and TJX Companies Supported Team,
Serving at Gossler Park Elementary School
City Year believes that empathy is an important value to uphold when advocating for social change. Empathy helps us to build trust, deepen our understanding of others, and maximize our impact. Empathy to me is the ability to not only understand the feelings of others, but to also share those feelings and take steps to act accordingly.
Corps members often practice empathy through striving to walk in others’ moccasins. At City Year we often speak of a Cherokee prayer that says, “Oh Great Spirit, grant that I may never criticize my brother or sister until I have walked the trail of life in their moccasins.” I see this everyday watching my fellow 5th grade corps members at Gossler Park elementary school. Everyday I watch as my peers implement fantastic lessons, ideas and practices. Sometimes these sessions go according to plan but just as often; there are problems that arise. It is at this point that empathy comes in. Instead of becoming frustrated with the students and giving up, corps members step into the moccasins of their students and formulate new ways to reach their students. This serves as a huge part of the success we see as corps members. In order to bring about change, one must look at why things happen as opposed to just seeing them happen. I believe that this is one of the most important skills that corps members learn and develop over their year of service.
However it is to be framed; walking in the moccasins of others, expressing empathy, or whatever other phrase you want to use, in order to effectively create social change one must aim to master this ability City Year equips corps members with the ability to shape the community, nation, and world through its focus on values such as empathy.