“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” –Mohsin Hamid
I first conceived of this week’s mission as a kindness “assignment” back in September, 2001. I was offering an online version of my original kindness class, what I call “The Practice of Kindness.” Per usual, the first week’s assignment was to do something kind for yourself. A couple of days after sending out that assignment, the attacks of September 11th took place.
So here I was, trying to facilitate an online class on the subject of kindness for dozens of people all over the world. That week and those that followed were filled with many confusing emotions, some of them even at odds with each other. Much for myself, I created this theme back then to give ME something concrete to do that honored the kind of response I wanted to have to the attacks of September 11th.
I’ve offered this mission a handful of times in my kindness classes since then. Of all the themes I’ve offered, it has generated the most confusion, maybe even angst, among kindness class participants. One past participant voiced her confusion this way, “So, I have found this homework puzzling. What do I want… World peace? If I could give that I would be going to Oslo. $10,000? If I could give that, I wouldn’t want it myself.”
I offer her comments here to provide a voice for any of you who may be feeling the same way now. In response, I encourage you to look for other interpretations of the mission, perhaps those that may sound simple or even superficial. For instance, if you want world peace, providing a moment of peace for someone contributes to world peace. And if you want to experience wealth in monetary terms, giving a child a small amount of money may achieve the same thing $10,000 would achieve for an adult.
Lastly, to see the concept of this week’s mission spread throughout a community, take a look at this video about the residents Gander, Newfoundland in Canada who found themselves hosting thousands of stranded airline passengers beginning on September 11, 2001.
And if you have an interpretation of this mission that you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear about it.