On February 14th, I had to visit the London Empathy Museum’s exhbition “A Mile in My Shoes,” which turned out to be the most perfect way to spend my Valentine’s Day. I walked into the ‘shoe shop,’ which was shaped like a giant shoe box, and requested a pair of size 6 shoes. I was handed a box containing the most comfortable black boots I had ever had the pleasure of putting on my feet, along with a little ipod. I swapped my shoes out for this new-to-me pair, left the shop, pressed play, and began a walk I would never forget.
As I walked, I listened to the ipod as Sarah told me the story of her life – how she contracted Polio in India as a small child, how she moved to London to work as a nurse in order to support her parents, how she married a doctor who abused her for years, and how she managed to still love the world throughout it all. I walked and listened, and realized that why I had found the shoes so comfortable: they were orthopedic shoes designed to help the limp Sarah had as a result of her childhood disease. Yes, that is right. Sarah is very much a real person – a real immigrant who came to London as a young woman to work – and I was quite literally walking a mile in a pair of her shoes.
I was so moved by Sarah’s story, and her plea for empathy and love between all people. I couldn’t help but think of how important it was to remember that as a teacher, especially as a teacher in New York City. Not only is it one of the best melting pot cities in American, it is also filled with such a large class startification. Every family, every person has a unique story to tell. How often to we, as humans, become frustrated with one another? How often do we forget our shared humanity? It is incredibly important that, as a teacher, we never forget the humanity of our students; we must never forget how badly they need our unconditional love, especially when they start to act out. We must also remember how crucial it is to teach that empathy in all of our lessons, and to instill that love of humanity within each of our students. It is the only way we will be able to save our world from all of the hatred that currently poisons it.