Our children not only begged for a dog, they prepared over 2 years. They researched breeds, asked us to vote on options, helped organize the house, and searched petfinder endlessly to find our perfect pet. They deserved that dog. Yet, I stalled. A dog is work, and no matter how many heartfelt promises they made, I knew who would be saddled with additional responsibility.
Until one day my son said, “Mom, don’t you think it’s important for kids to learn to care about someone other than themselves?”
Simon Baron-Cohen says it well in his book, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty:
We must continue to remind each generation of parents of the importance of the internal pot of gold…[of] healthy empathy.
Empathy itself is the most valuable resource in our world. Given this assertion, it is puzzling that in school or parenting curricula, empathy figures hardly at all, and in politics, business, the courts or policing, it is rarely, if ever on the agenda. We can see examples among our political leaders of the value of empathy, as when Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk sought to understand and befriend each other, crossing the divide in apartheid South Africa. But the same has not yet been achieved between Israel and Palestine or between Washington, Iraq and Afghanistan. And for every day that empathy is not employed in such corners of the world, more lives are and will be lost.
We’re as imperfect as any other parents, and empathy alone won’t solve all of the world’s ills…but at least now we have a dog who can help our children grow with empathy, and a son who would do well in sales.