Increase global empathy

I had the chance to spend some time last week with Eric Dawson, the co-founder and CEO of Peace First.  Peace First works with kids aged 4 to 14 to teach them to engage productively with each other in peaceful ways.  Peace First is working to counteract the overwhelming barrage of violence that young kids come across every day – not just on TV and in video games, but in schools and in their role models – and teaching them and their teachers conflict resolution skills to live more productive and more peaceful lives.  They’ve already trained over 40,000 kids and trained more than 2,500 teachers.

When I asked Eric what his dream would be for a global goal for the next decade, he said he’d like to “increase global empathy.”

It’s elegant in its simplicity. It’s possible.  And it’s powerful.

I spend a lot of time thinking about generosity, so I can’t help but contemplate how Eric’s dream about increasing global empathy intersects with my quest to give people permission to be generous.  To me, generosity is a “gateway drug” to empathy: when people tell me about their own generosity experiments, inevitably their “aha moment” is the experience of real connection with another person.  Anyone engaged in a conscious practice of generosity has to stop walking by and closing the door on other peoples’ experiences.  The decision to have a practice of generosity is an a priori decision to stop, to look someone in the eye, and to connect with her.

I’ve found that the practice of generosity creates transformation on multiple levels.  Being generous makes you be more generous.  Being generous helps you to experience more empathy and, in time, become more empathetic.  And being generous is an opportunity to tap into a true sense of abundance, in one’s own life and in others’ lives.

I’m glad to know Eric and to be getting to know Peace First, and I’m curious to hear what others think about empathy, about generosity, and how to cultivate both to live a richer life.

Here’s Eric’s moving 6-minute talk from Pop!Tech in 2008 (link is here if it doesn’t embed properly):

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