Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Questioning Empathy

I present to you musings of an overtired Sarah  from around 1 am last night as she tried to sleep but couldn't seem to turn off her brain, thus recording those thoughts in writing here on the blog. I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and/or circularity. The final product might not be as pretty as some posts, but it is honest and authentic - which I tend to prefer anyway. And so, without further adieu, Questioning Empathy.

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Lately I've been consumed with thoughts about empathy and how it occurs in others. It all started about a week or so ago while I was on a service trip with students to the city nearest to our school. During these trips (this was my third of this specific one) my students engage with different local organizations and programs that they could choose to serve for a year while they are seniors. The boys cook our meals - it's an all boys school, we don't just force the males to cook - and the faculty members facilitate discussions about various social justice topics like housing and hunger.

The discussions are typically engaging with a pleasantly surprising amount of student involvement. Questions are asked, presuppositions are challenged, and the idea of care for the other is usually taken away - at least an inkling of it is... We have to start somewhere, right? This time was different though. Or maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was the culmination of many tiny instance from the three other trips this year or maybe I was just in an off mood. 

Whatever it was, this trip left me with a haunting question about empathy, namely, can empathy be taught? Is it something you're born with? Are there those more prone to empathy than others? Is high school too late?


The optimist in me still believes that, yes, empathy can be taught. I also believe that no one is born hateful. Hate is taught. So why can't empathy also be taught? I believe empathy is developed and strengthened through meeting others and hearing their stories. As we listen, our imaginations move us into their shoes and allow a closer understanding of the other and what events in their life has led them to. But how do we get someone to imagine? To even try to imagine? Is their refusal laziness or incapability? 

What if I am wrong? What if you can't teach empathy? My many questions on the topic caused me to do what any good millennial does when faced with a question - google it. Actually, I searched for any Ted-Talks about empathy, but I did that through Google. Tomato, tomato. There were a surprising number of videos where people asked similar questions. One in particular had a woman sharing her study of altruism and it appears there is a part of the brain correlated to acts of kindness. Altruism can be connected to the size of this particular piece of the brain. It's not empathy exactly, but I would say the two are very much correlated. 

What if being empathetic is genetic? I always attribute my ability to empathize to my mother and grandmother and how they raised me. But when I asked my mom "how do you teach empathy," our discussion led to a recognition that she and my uncle were raised in the same house by the same woman and he is not an empathetic individual. Is it different in males vs females? Is age a factor? 

I'm rambling now and I know this post is completely out of left field, but I would genuinely love to know your thoughts on empathy. Do any of you know of any good sources on the topic? I'm genuinely considering digging into a deeper study of the topic and would love any recommendations if you have them. 

Thanks for listening as I ramble friends. 

Peace,
Sarah


Sunday, January 1, 2017

An Intentional 2017


Happy New Year, friends. 2017 has arrived, and with it a fresh, crisp new year with which we can work to experience in beautiful ways.

This year, instead of setting a typical resolution, I have decided to choose a word to strive to embody during these next 12 months (and hopefully beyond that). As I prayed and reflected on what I wanted that word to be, my heart kept returning me to the idea of being intentional.


That's not to say that I currently spend my days being unintentional and lackadaisical, but there are definitely moments in probably every aspect of my life where I have simply gone through the motions, or carelessly did the  bare-minimum to complete I was doing just to so it would be done. It's not everyday and it's not all at once, but every time it happens I've missed an opportunity to learn and grow as a person.

With intentionality comes reflectiveness and authenticity. It requires awareness and discernment. Actively choosing to be intentional won't be easy, and I will undoubtedly mess up, but I believe that even simply recognizing times where I could strive to be more intentional will allow me to flourish.


I pray that intentional time, relationships and prayer will lead to deeper listening, understanding, and growth.

And so, here's to 2017! May this year be filled with goodness and bring us all closer to God.

Have you set any goals for this new year? Any tips on how to live more intentionally?

Peace,
Sarah


Saturday, December 31, 2016

My 16 Favorite Photos from 2016




Something is going wrong with my blog layout and I can't quite figure it out, so please bear with me as I continue fiddling with it. (If anyone out there is display/HTML savvy, I would love some advice!)

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Hey y'all! You may have noticed some extreme silence in this little corner of the internet lately. I've been settling into life in Connecticut and everything that goes along with it and decided that I should try to get a comfortable hold on the new job, new home, new life, etc. and all of my energies have been geared toward that. I'm not going to pretend like I have this brilliant new life balance where all is mastered and I can easily add on more tasks, but I have been feeling a desire to write again and so here I am back on the blog - for today at least.

No guarantees for how long. I'm simply going to listen to how I am feeling and post based on that.

As 2016 comes to a close I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite photos from the year. I did a similar post last year and absolutely loved going through my pictures and strolling down memory lane. Not going to lie, it is challenging choosing only 16, but the limit keeps me from oversharing. I mean, just because I love every photo from my trip to Tahoe doesn't mean you want to see 30 pictures of basically the same view...


This year I noticed that the majority of the photos I chose were those with loved ones. I wasn't focused on which looked the most professional(ish) or which necessarily were the most unique. Instead, I found myself drawn to memories of special moments spent with those people who bring joy and grace into my life.

2016 was a bit of a rollercoaster with its fair share of ups and downs, but all of the beautiful people God has placed in my life sure made for an incredible year.

Happy New Year, friends. Sending loads of love and prayers for you and yours as we begin 2017.

Peace,
Sarah

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

September Goals


Hello September!

Today marks the official beginning of our school year and I am SO excited! Growing up I was always that nerdy kid who loved the first day of school. For me learning has always been a ton of fun! Plus, new school years meant new, crisp, clean school supplies.

...I'm a nerd. I know it. I've accepted it. I embrace it.

Anywhoo, this school year has me particularly excited because it's my first as an educator rather than a student. I can't wait to see what my kids learn and what I learn from them. It's going to be a good year :)

An ending of August means a new set of monthly goals and aspirations. But before I talk about what I hope to accomplish this month, let's have a look at last month's goals, shall we?

August Goals Recap:

1. Complete the Chaplet a Day Challenge via The Living Person Got to learn some knew chaplets and keep in touch with friends as accountability partners. Excited to try out TLP's next challenge!

2. Find an apartment Done and LOVE it! I still have things to bring from home this weekend, but my new little home is coming together quite nicely.

3. Move in to said apartment and have at least one space settled in. Ok, so it's the bathroom, but it's organized, put together and squeaky clean :)

#crushedit

I think this might be the first month where I accomplished everything on my list. Mind you, it was a shorter list than normal, but hey, I check them all off! I just hope September's goals go just as well.


This month I hope to:

1. Settle into another room - My apartment isn't huge, but I still have a lot of settling in to do. Hopefully by the end of September I'll have it feeling even more cozy.

2. Start a savings account - Hooray for no longer being a student. Time to be fiscally responsible.

3. Go out to eat with a friend - Living in a brand new city is rough. Hopefully this goal will push me out of my introverted comfort zone and force me to meet new people and make friends.

4. Write an outfit post - It's been ages and I actually have a dress code for work which is inspiring me to dress nicely and get creative with my wardrobe.

5. Set the February Trip for work - Part of my job involves service trips with students and it turns out our February break trip isn't scheduled yet. That's exciting because I can try something new, but also scary because typically these trips are scheduled a year in advance. I'm praying that it comes together beautifully.

What about you, friend? Any fun hopes for September?

Peace,
Sarah

**Linking up with BraveloveblogStaygoldautumn and Mysocalledchaos

Sunday, August 28, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 26


Slowly but surely I am settling in to life here on the East Coast. It is definitely different than California, but it has been good so far. As I reflect on this past week (though I may be meshing two into one - it's been a lot of transition/processing haha) I am overcome by the beautiful experiences of grace and hospitality that have been extended in this new, remarkable place.


This week I am thankful for:

1. Small Worlds

On my first day of work I met a colleague whose daughter went to undergrad at my school. I asked her name - partly to be polite and partly because the school is small enough that I could have known her - and it turns out I knew exactly who she was! Between my being sick most of freshman year/ studying abroad fall of sophomore year and her transferring halfway through sophomore year, we only overlapped for about a semester, but our paths definitely crossed. She kindly reached out to me on Facebook when her dad mentioned it and we met up for coffee. The world is too small, y'all. Yay for a friend in the area!

2. Great Colleagues

I cannot even begin to say what a warm, welcoming, super-willing-to-help environment the school I am working at is. The number of faculty who have reached out and offered to help me in any way that they can is humbling and so heartwarming - #blessed doesn't even begin to cover it.

3. Early Dismissals

The majority of out school is not air conditioned and like much of the States, we've been having incredibly hot weather. Friday's forecast was a scorcher and it was the last day of summer before the students arrive, so we were told at about 9am that offices were closing at noon and we had the rest of the day off! A huge perk especially after learning that my job doesn't fall under the typical snow days category... womp womp

4. Retreats

Another indication that I am in the right work environment: the school year began with a faculty retreat devoted to reflecting on our mission as educators and how it meets the needs of our students and the world.

5. Neighborly Neighbors

And for my final moment of grace this week, a big shout out to a fun night of Kan Jam, Cornhole and homemade beef stew courtesy of the super nice couple that lives below me. People in Connecticut are so nice! I can't get over it!

How was your week? Any fun end-of-summer plans?

Peace,
Sarah

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mini Life Update


Hello friends! So sorry for the radio silence lately, but boy have I been busy.


Last week I packed up and officially moved to Connecticut for my new job. My apartment wasn't ready until a few days beyond my first day of work so I spent a few days in limbo at a hotel, but Thursday I signed my lease and began settling into my first apartment! I don't have a lot of furniture yet (it's making its way slowly but surely) but that's made deep cleaning and organizing what I do have easier.

I'm also waiting patiently for wifi which won't be installed until Wednesday - womp womp. Oh well. It gave me a big push to find a local coffee shop in my new neighborhood to get some work done. Caffeine has been acquired and I'm only about a 10 minute walk from home. Score!

Work has been incredible. Everyone is so kind and passionate about their work. It's only been a week, but I can already tell that it is going to be a great community and environment to work in. We've had orientation a few days this week and will finish it off next Wednesday with a day long retreat.

Other than the new job and apartment, life has been pretty low key which is just the way I like it. A lot is happening this year and I am so excited to see how it all pans out.

Here's to new beginnings and new adventures!

Peace,
Sarah

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 25


Only a short time home this summer means filling my days with fun and friends which means it was hard to choose just 5 moments of joy this week - the best kind of dilemma if you ask me. I'm soaking in this precious time off and trying to do just about as much as possible before the big move this weekend.


1. Road Trip
My plan for moving to Connecticut included staying with a friend of a friend for a week or so while I searched for housing. Unfortunately, they didn't have the space for me until a few weeks after I already had to be in town for work so I had to make new arangements quickly. Luckily, I have amazing friends who are willing to road trip last minute with me in search of housing. So last Wednesday I took my first trip to CT and looked at a bunch of apartments on Thursday. I loved having time to spend with my friend and time to see my new home and workplace. It is stunning. I can't wait!!

2. Apartment Found!
Our last minute trip was an amazing success. I found an apartment I am absolutely in love with that is within my budget and only 10 minutes from work! I will definitely have to post some photos to share with y'all as the move-in process begins.

3. Fish Fry
My best friend and roommate from college, who also took the road trip with me, is moving from Erie, PA to Florida this week and her family hosted a fish fry to send her off and celebrate her dad's birthday. It was lovely and I was able to car pool with another friend from college who I hadn't seen in a while and catch up. Good friends, delicious food, perfect weather - what else could be better?

4. Dinner Date
Tacos, brownies, long conversations and a good friend from high school - another great visit with an amazing woman. She's the best.

5. Concert
Last, but not least, my cousin has been playing local country music shows for a few years and Saturday he played with one of his friends at a local winery in Ohio. I went with my family and had a ball. It's great to see his passion for music and the joy our family feels seeing him on stage.

That just about sums it up for me. How were your weeks? Any moments that have you just beaming with joy?

Peace,
Sarah
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