This morning I followed tradition and enjoyed the delicious taste of chocolate to celebrate Easter. Over the past few weeks though, I couldn’t help but think that the true ‘meaning’ of Easter was perhaps lost amongst this commercialised chocolaty experience.
I was lucky enough to have a few surprises this morning, full of Marvel’s Avengers. As much as I enjoy kinder chocolate & Marvel, the real superheroes today are those helping others – practicing servant leadership.
While Easter is celebrated by many around the world, it did occur to me that regardless of how you feel about the idea of Jesus as a ‘saviour’, his story does present an opportunity to both reflect and educate young people about empathy. As Jesus said, Matthew 7:12 ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.’ The infinite compassion, empathy and love that is displayed in the stories from his life is a call to action.
The concept of servant leadership is much discussed in literature, as is empathy, but only limited attention is given to these concepts in schools. While initiatives like ‘Start Empathy’ from Ashoka, and others, provide new platforms to support schools, more work is needed.
Easter and other religious occasions present schools and families with an opportunity to educate our children about empathy and love for other people. Rather than shying away from religious celebrations, schools should support students to understand what they are about – not to indoctrinate, but to inform. This should not be limited to Christian celebrations, but should be part of a broader cultural education in our schools on the various celebrations of religions.
While many have no faith, the history of our world is defined by those of various religious inclinations and this should not be ignored. The message here is that the focus of this education should be on the beautiful messages that come out of these celebrations, not conversion or indoctrination.
Volunteering doesn’t just happen, it occurs because people have had the opportunity to reflect and understand their role in a ‘community’, and after gaining empathy. While some are far more empathetic than others from an early age, experiences and education can teach people how to understand what another person is experiencing from their perspective or ‘place themselves in another’s shoes’.
Today I spent time reflecting on the activities I participated in that helped me to learn empathy. While school gave me a few select opportunities, my work with a Labor Member of Parliament exposed me to so many incredible volunteers in my community supporting many in need. It was these experiences that inspired me to begin volunteering myself and coordinating activities for others to volunteer too with Raising Hope Education Foundation.
I hope that schools begin to have a more structured approach to empathy education. While this post has suggested one idea, volunteering opportunities and experiences in the community can highlight to students the privilege they have and the capacity they have to help.
Programs from World Vision, Oaktree and others to great work showcasing international causes, it’s also important for students to learn that there is a need for help in their own backyard. I would like to see localised opportunities for students to volunteer in school time, supported by organisations in our community.
While this would take considerable effort, the opportunities for quality project-based learning and learning-by-doing are incredible. Happy Easter to all those who read my blog, I hope that today presents you with an opportunity to reflect on how you serve your own community too.