Many of the world’s top ‘movers and shakers’ gathered last January in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual World Economic Forum to renew connections, exchange ideas, and expand their understanding on critical global issues.
Conferees could also experience a mock version of poverty at the local level. The Crossroads Foundation of Hong Kong hosted for a second year “Struggle for Survival,” a live simulation that offered Davos participants an opportunity “to take a few steps in the shoes of those living on $2 per day, which is nearly one-half the world’s population.”
In 75 minutes, many Davos attendees saw first-hand hardships faced by those in dire need: the struggle for education, shelter, medical care, water, food, the scourge of corruption in the marketplace, and abuse by loan sharks in communities with weak legal systems. Cast members were volunteer humanitarian workers drawn from a range of nationalities.
What happens when we walk in the shoes of another person? Say, someone living in an acute care nursing home; or a caregiver whose days are filled with preparing meals, ‘toileting’ an aged parent, or nursing a loved one who can’t voice his or her pain or frustration.
Perhaps, a shift in outlook. A deeper understanding of what it means to be dependent. Riffing off Carolyn’s last blog, it suggests halting one’s exasperation with a sibling charged with caring for a parent but failing to communicate fully with his sisters and brothers. Or trying on a caregiver’s shoes as he pushes a wheelchair or empties a bedpan.
Rushing to judgment is like driving a speeding car. You focus is on the road ahead, not the world around you. Walking in another’s shoes can engender greater generosity of spirit, going the extra mile, ceding the benefit of the doubt, or listening with an open heart. Saying, “I will suspend judgment and view the situation from your point of view” means entering a shared world – if only briefly – with someone with dementia, a foreign-born caregiver threatened with possible deportation, or a cancer patient with little hope of survival.
Beyond Dispute Associates
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Isis Clemente says
Yes, I agree with you that looking at life through a different lens may indeed incite compassion. The problem comes when the person(s) who is actually attempting to look at life through a different lense is incapable of doing so, due to his/her own inability to get out of their own skin , or shoes to use your metaphor) How do you get someone to realistically realize the pain, and suffering of another.
I state this out of my own experience. When I was trying to take care of two parents who simultaneously developed Alzheimer’s, and I was going out of my mind. I can’t tell you the number of people, academics and otherwise who turned their head the other way, and simply “took care” of the pain by telling me, “Put them in a nursing home.” Without any sympathy, nor compassion either for my parents nor me. I soon found out that it was useless trying to dialogue with them for I was better off saving my energy to meet the demands of the situation.
Carolyn Parr says
Dear Isis, I think often when faced with a situation that has no easy answer, people just don’t know what to say. They want the problem to go away. You did your best out of love for your parents — sometimes we just have to do what we have to do, even if it means going it alone. Thanks for sharing your story.
Susan I. Wranik says
Quotable title: To Change Your Vision, Change Your Shoes. If only…we could suspend judgment and view each situation from the heart and eyes of the person being judged.