Among the many things I am teaching Heidi and Piper on a regular basis, empathy is one that I am currently focusing on more than others. Of all things that they could be learning right now (especially Heidi), I believe this to be one of the most important. Therefore, at every opportunity (that I remember) I use the following verbiage as education:
"Heidi, that was so nice of you to give Piper that toy! Look at her face; do you see how happy she is? She loves playing with that. That was a wonderful thing for you to do."
"Piper is very upset. Do you see how she's crying? You know how you cry when you get upset? That's how it feels for her."
"Thank you for helping me with that. I felt really good when I had your help."
"It hurts the plant when you do that. Please be more careful when you're touching it."
Yes, I have recently started adding foliage and plant life to my "daily" empathy lessons. Why? Every plant, bush, tree and flower is a living entity with energy. If it is a live, I believe it can feel on some level. This is what I was taught throughout my childhood as my mother helped me to feel the energy of every plant we worked with in our garden and to respect its life. I feel this is absolutely as important as teaching both of them to respect each other, other people and animals because we all inhabit the same space and are therefore entwined.
An image comes to mind whenever I think of this and I hope to someday put it to paper, hang it on a prominent wall in my home and point it out to my children at every opportunity possible.
Picture a man standing on the ground. Next to him stands a lion, dog, elephant, giraffe, horse or whatever animal you feel particularly fond of (and even more importantly, those you don't). Also next to him you find trees, flowers and other plants, all in a line. One does not overlap the other and no one stands higher than another. We all stand on the same ground. The trees take root in the ground above it and below it, just as the plants do. The lion, elephant, dog, and horse also stand on the same ground the plants receive life from and the man, woman or gender neutral human-like being also stands on that same ground. So you see, we are no different. Therefore, how can we not relate to all of them?
We feel empathy because we are alive. Human. Yet the same energy that makes us alive also makes the flowers and the snakes and the sharks alive. We are one and it's time we all started acting like it.