Empathy vs. Evil, Bonk!

Lois Lowry recently published her 4th and final book in a loose collection of YA novels called the Giver Quartet. The Giver is the most famous and beloved of the four and the one which most frequently appears on middle school required reading lists (including mine). Many people credit The Giver as being a more subtle and artful predecessor to more violent dystopian novels like The Hunger Games.

Regardless, she’s been interviewed a lot lately with the release of her new book. And she had this to say about the main character of her new book who fights evil with empathy.

“The ability to understand other people’s feelings,” Lowry said. “As an encompassing gift that a kid could have — or a human — that could be the one that could save the world. If we could all acquire it to the extent that boy had it, no one would go into a movie theater with a gun.” It’s a powerful lesson, and one that I’m eager for my children — so often so quick to think only of themselves — to learn. It’s surely one I still need to learn. Perhaps these books are for adults after all.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot because empathy is such an important thing to have and such a difficult thing to teach. Sometimes, like last week –when I had to deal with a group of girls who were being mean to each other — I wish I had a giant foam empathy hammer and I could just bonk them over the head with it. So that they could see that the crappy way they feel on the inside is a direct result of the way they treat each other. Until such a tool exists I’ll keep listening and talking and being the best grown-up-type-person I know how to be.

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