This photo was posted on Facebook by Eduard Koller, a Seattle resident. It was taken by journalist Francesco Malavolta. Polish mothers left these prams and strollers at the train station, for Ukrainian refugees when they arrive in Poland with their children. (March 6, 2022).
Empathy is More Than Words.
Empathy is more than words, and this picture reveals the true meaning. These Polish mothers stepped into the reality of Ukrainian mothers (and fathers and grandparents) who were not only fleeing to safety with their children, but who needed to know that they and their children are welcome.
Mothers are like that, aren’t they? I remember one time when I was driving the family to church on a Sunday morning. I saw something alarming and quickly turned onto a side street and parked the car. As I jumped out of the driver’s seat, I said to my husband Howard, “Stay here! I’ll be right back.” My two children were tucked into their child seats in the back, so I once again looked sternly at all of them and said, “Don’t move! I’ll be right back.”
As I dashed across the street, I kept my eye on the toddler. No more than 18 months old, he was dressed in a yellow footed sleeper. No adult was in sight. The child was walking across the front yard of an apartment complex, now perilously close to the parked cars, the only protection left between the toddler and a busy two-lane city street.
When I was within inches of him, I dropped to my knees on the wet grass, and reached out my hand. He stopped walking, looked me in the eye — and smiled. He laid his precious baby hand in my outstretched one. I gently turned him away from the oncoming traffic and asked him, “Where do you live Little One?”
I got a little “Baby Babble,” but nothing to help me find his mother. I looked around the apartment complex and noticed that one door was open behind a screen door, so I took the chance that this might be his home. I didn’t pick up the child because I didn’t want to frighten him or his mother since I was a stranger, but he held my hand as I steered him toward the open door.
I knocked a few times. Eventually, the baby’s mother awoke and came to the door. When she saw her son standing outside with a stranger, she screamed at the recognition that she almost lost her baby. But all was well. I got one more sweet smile from the toddler before I left — and took my family to church.
Radiant Empathy Requires Courage.
The Empathy Triad consists of Empathy, Context and Conversation. At least at its simplest this is true. But to develop Radiant Empathy requires taking action to make the world a better place. Whether the action is motivated by a mother’s heart, or a spirit of justice, or to create beauty and light in the world — Empathy is much more than kind words, much more than being highly sensitive, and much more than being a good listener. To function at the level of Radiant Empathy requires courage.
The courage can be simple such as rescuing a toddler. Or it can be heroic such as defending one’s country from an aggressive invasion. It can also be as dedicated as working tirelessly on behalf of your NeuroDivergent family. The members of our group have certainly learned how to do all they can — and a little bit more.
A few years ago, when I developed the membership website, “ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS,” (www.ASD-NTrelationships.com) I wanted a logo that represented this empathy and courage. Our members are strong and loving and kind. They have faced incredibly tough conditions in raising their autistic children, or growing up with an autistic parent, or parenting with a partner on the Autism Spectrum. I decided we needed a logo that represented the soft side of courage which is demonstrated by the Radiant Empathy Angels in our group.
The sunflower is perfect. It is a bold beautiful blossom that radiates cheer and hope all day long as it follows the sun. The sunflower is also resilient. Our logo shows the sunflower in the rain, still vibrant and strong even in a storm. If you have ever seen a field of sunflowers following the sun, or even just soaking up the rain, you know how radiant they are.
On a Personal Note.
On a personal note, I find it a marvelous serendipity that the sunflower is also the national flower of Ukraine. Considering that my grandparents were refugees from Ukraine with one of the “Russification” purges in the early 20 th century, it is a stunning message. The sunflower is just a flower after all, but it represents the courage to take your empathy to a higher level and to “be the change you want to see in the world,” (Mahatma Gandhi).
Thank you all for being a part of our group and my life.