Home Again Clients Recommend Practicing Empathy During Social Distancing

Every Monday night, Home Again residents meet (lately, via Zoom) for Life-Enrichment Class led by Director of Family & Youth Services, Cheryl Clunk. One of the consequences of physical distancing can be too much interpersonal distance, which is why technological innovations like Zoom and FaceTime are wonderful to help to alleviate the burdens of isolation. Both interpersonal distance and physical distance can decrease the amount of empathy that human beings naturally have the capacity for.

So, in an attempt to intentionally increase empathy levels in our community, last week’s class topic was focused on just that. To start the class, clients co-created a list of things that we all can do to increase empathy.

  1. Set a daily alarm to remind yourself to reach out to someone with an encouraging text, email, call, etc.
  2. In any relationship or situation, intentionally practice seeing things from the other person’s point of view.
  3. When we disagree with others on any topic, deliberately reach out to someone on the other side and ask politely why they believe what they do, and actually listen. This is not for debating, but for you to just to hear and consider what they say.
  4. Read and learn about opposing viewpoints on your own time.

During this class discussion, clients found that they actually gained empathy and developed a new perspective on a situation by watching a documentary or a show during their time at home, so they compiled a recommended watch list for us too!

Home Again recommendations for viewing that can improve empathy:

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez – The horrors of child abuse, how much the system fails to protect some children, the violence of homophobia, how children sometimes suffer in silence even at the hands of their own parents

When They See Us – Racism, rush judgments, unequal justice, inability for people in poverty to fight the system, how quickly people spread gossip even when they have no idea of what’s true

The Impossible – How a family handles a natural disaster like a tsunami, natural disaster pain like losing everything all at once, the kindness of strangers in a situation like that

Unorthodox – The strict life required by some religions (in this case Hasidic Jews), what it’s like to feel trapped in your own family, how some religions are about rules more than faith

Little Fires Everywhere – How hard it is to be poor in a rich community, parents not hearing their kids, people judging others too quickly, even wealthy people can be bad parents but some parents wouldn’t be so “bad” if they had access to money or help

A documentary on Travis Browne UFC Fighter – How tough it is for professional athletes, how the support of a parent can push us to achieve greatness, even tough guys have emotions

Tiger King – How have people been able to mistreat animals this long without being stopped, can you really trust people who testify against people they have worked for and been friends with but have a motive to lie about you, how can we make the animal abuse stop everywhere

Waco – What happens when a religious sect is invaded by the government, should parents be allowed to raise kids in a cult, what constitutes child abuse, how far should the government be allowed to go, why isn’t the government being held responsible for murder

Sister Wives – Should polygamy be a personal choice since everyone is a consenting adult, how can women share a husband and get along, it might be nice to share the responsibilities of a household

Mrs. America – The fight for women’s rights in this country, why all women don’t agree about what freedom for women should look like, how a cause can win or lose based on the skill and passion of its leaders – not necessarily what is right, should women’s rights be separate from abortion rights

Big Little Lies – How women put up with a lot in life, what it feels like to be a woman with an abusive husband, how catty women can be, and we should learn to be nice to each other, scary real-life situations for women

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