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From the comments: How to nurture compassion

May 30, 2014 /

Community member Laragene Williams wrote this in response to Daniel Goleman’s TED Talk, Why aren’t we more compassionate?:

“Love what he says about IQ. Wonder what would happen if in our schooling we were taught how to deal with how vulnerable we feel when we allow ourselves to be compassionate. What if we never felt vulnerable because we had never had anything to feel vulnerable about? In my son’s classroom he was not allowed to help others, or be concerned about others, or to touch others. He was to mind his own business, focus on himself, and not look at anyone else. Compassion, not academics or sports, is his strength. But not once did anyone suggest that we build on his capacity for compassion.

I have to wonder if somehow we are teaching, and testing, our children to do and be the opposite of what we actually are hoping for, and I wonder if it isn’t in the daily training. In my Montessori 3-6 classroom, I will never forget a little boy mopping the floor after a spill during story time. The whole bucket of water spilled onto the floor. He was just four, and was practicing using the mop for the first time after a lesson on mopping. The room was very quiet, I was reading a story. I didn’t stop reading, because I noticed that he was beginning to clean it up. Without any direction from me, one of the children got up quietly and found a sponge to help, and then another, and another, and another, and another, without a sound, without speaking to each other, without interruption. I just kept reading. But like now, tears came, I was so moved by their wisdom and respect and their compassion. It was lovely to acknowledge afterwards.

Children start with compassion. Isn’t it our duty to notice it, nurture it, learn from it, and help it along? When we do, the return on our investment is moving for all involved. Thank you for all you do to help us challenge ourselves to notice, and act, and teach and keep learning.”
— Laragene Williams

We’re always on the lookout for sharp critique, thought-provoking questions or interesting insights in response to TED Talks. Post your thoughts alongside any talk; we read them all and will feature one comment on ideas.TED.com each weekday. (Comments are lightly edited for spelling and grammar.)