One of the greatest gifts we receive, if we're lucky, is having a loving mother or parent, or someone in your family capable of unconditional love. In this drawing, you see the infant grasping the mother's hand. It is the beginning child/parent relationship that we learn "empathy".
The dictionary meaning of empathy is "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." That "another" can mean another human being, animal or even something in our Natural world. Those first 5 years of a human child are the most important for a child to learn to relate to the world, as it relates to them. That window is through a mother, or father, or even an aunt, uncle, grandparent or Mom's best friend Auntie Mia. Just basic care-taking - combing a child's hair, washing a child's face, showing delight in a new discovery, pointing out the neighbor's cat and stopping to pet the cat - are opportunities to interact and actually show care to another person or creature.
Unfortunately, due to many situations from previous generations, people grow up with violence in a home. Handling difficult emotions, setbacks in the workplace, misunderstandings between family members, and hurtful practices passed down from one generation to another all set people up for distrust of others. I remember a family I grew up with where the father regularly beat his children with a massive leather shaving belt. He terrorized his children in authoritarian control. The children could not think for themselves unless they checked with their father. I later figured out that this man's wife had terror issues from her husband as well. As a result of his parenting style ,I saw the children interact with the outside world with incredible aggression towards others who they saw as "weak." The only deference they showed was to kids who would take the fight to them, but it was totally out of fear..."I better not mess with Johnny cuz he can kick my ass." So what friends these children made continued to be other kids like them who took their anger out on hapless victims in the neighborhood.
We are at a period in time where it seems that people without empathy and a whole lot of anger and control issues are populating our news on a daily basis. Authoritarianism forces a population to operate out of fear - fear of others, fear of new ideas, fear of helping someone in need, fear without the attempt to understand. Wars are built on that fear, no matter how pointed or irrational. When you see some person, boss, or political person raging at another's viewpoint vehemently, like they are ready to strike the other person, I always wonder...what was their mother like? What was their family like? Was there so much hate in that family that the person never learned empathy towards another? Did that person ever have a parent who held their hands as a child and told them that they were loved?
The last time I watched our national news, I came to the conclusion that many, many people never received the gift of empathy from their family. Wars, racial hate, ignorance, attacking others who are different shows that we are not teaching enough empathy in our families. It all starts in the family, radiates out into the neighborhood, then the community, city and beyond. One small act of kindness can change a person's point of view in an instant.
Christine “Liz” LaRue is a clay artist and illustrationist. She is known for her intricately textured figurative sculptures and emotionally illustrative drawings. Chicago born though also raised in Utah and Idaho, Ms. LaRue is of Creole/Cuban descent. Her art has been influenced by her Afro-Latino heritage. Ms. LaRue’s interests has been in Pre-Columbian art of the Olmec, Maya of Mexico, Nazca and Moche face pots of Peru. This also includes the bronze sculptures of the Ife of Nigeria, and Tā Moko tattoo art of the Maōri.