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July 5, 2018

Empathy at three

Yesterday afternoon, our three year old grandson, who I’ll call Eliza because I’ve heard people have noticed a creep on the Internet recently, played with “Amos,” a 2.5yo child he had never met before. Amos is a sweet, fun child who was eager to join in. Eliza turned three a few days ago, so there was a noticeable age difference but not a huge gap. They played for hours out on the lawn, along with Amos’ wonderfully sociable and kind 6yo sister. It gave me full-body memories of watching our children play with their cousins on the very same lawn. There aren’t a lot of stretches when I’d say I was happy without adding some type of qualifier. Yesterday earned no qualifiers

Then, after maybe four hours of play, Amos swung a bubble wand and accidentally hit Eliza in the head with it. It’s a foot-long light plastic tube with a long slit in it, and Amos is only 2.5, so there was no damage, no mark, no blame. But, still, no one likes being beaned, especially by surprise.

Eliza started to make the quivering face of a child about to cry, but quickly realized what had happened. You could see him struggle not to cry. His mom — who was born empathetic — took him into the hammock where she was lying down and snuggled him. He spooned so she wouldn’t see that he was still stifling tears. But I could see. And his mom of course could tell. And so could Amos, who started getting upset because Eliza was.

Now, I’m Eliza’s grandparent and he and I are very close in both senses of the word. So I am undoubtedly one of the two most biased people in the world when it comes to him. On the other hand, I have the joy of knowing him well. And I am certain that Eliza was holding back the display of his emotions because he did not want to upset Amos.

I think we often overrate empathy. But not always. And what Eliza exhibited was not just empathy. It was empathy for the person who accidentally hurt him. It was empathy rising above his own contrary feelings. It was empathy in the moment, without pause, that helped the object of that empathy, Amos. It was empathy that could not be expressed as empathy .

So why did I wake up at 2:30 this morning and weep?

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August 17, 2013

Mark Twain on kindness. Probably not.

Yesterday I clicked on a link to a Forbes.com post and was greeted by a an insterstitial page that said only:

Kindness is a language which the deaf and the blind can read.

This raised a few questions:

  • What was going through Forbes’ head when it decided to show us this pap? Does Forbes think that maybe we’re on the verge of kindness and just need this nudge?

  • Did Twain ever actually say this?

  • Why is there any question about what the deaf can read?

So I turned to Google. Herewith my findings:

1. There are a number of variations, including the more logical

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

2. At Google Books, there are 1,800 results for “mark twain” kindness deaf. The ones I poked at do not provide a source for the quote, although The Gratitude Attitude footnotes it…but Google Books doesn’t show the page with the footnote.

3. If you search Google Books by author for the words “kindness,” “blind,” and “deaf”, you get nine results. None of the four that have the quote cite a source for it.

4. Google Books has an Advanced Search page: http://www.google.com/advanced_book_search. It produces a query at plain old Google of the form:

kindness deaf blind inauthor:”Mark Twain”

Two paired über-conclusions:

1. Mark Twain did not say this quote OR Mark Twain said it but it was not recorded in a work indexed by Google Books.

2. My searching skills are inadequate OR I just don’t care enough.

 


QuoteInvestigator.com (twitter: Quote Investigator) has taken up this case and reports the following (earliest at the top):

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