Mommy, why are you crying- empathy and kidnapped girls

On April 15, 2014, 234 female students were kidnapped by terrorists from a school in Nigeria.  Most of them have not escaped, none of them have been rescued.

It is believed most have been married off.

Their government has done nothing.

This is not ok.

If these were our daughters how would we want the world to respond?


Some days my life, my struggles, and my anxiety over potential future struggles, is hard to deal with.  It feels like a lot.  The what if’s are overwhelming, the goals profound, the limitations too real.

But then I get caught up in all that is life, and my stress, though not nothing, in so many ways are stresses that I choose.  Not without some imposition outside of myself, still my reality is something I created from a plethora of options and opportunities.  At times I may have felt stuck but I have never truly been stuck.  How to juggle it all, how to fit everything in, how to be everything I feel pressured to be, how to fulfill school/ballet/work/community/parenting/all-the-important-commitments, how to not let everyone else but mostly myself down, all of it can be frustrating.  Frustrations that come with the life of privilege.  No, we’re not wealthy, we don’t own our home, we only have one very old vehicle, we have known the stress of not being able to buy groceries at times, once had our car repossessed, don’t know what we would do if we had a very serious medical situation, juggle bills and our bank account very carefully, and we don’t get to take vacations but as a white couple with white children living in the United States, we are still very privileged.  Incredibly blessed.  Something we never want to take for granted.

In this world of privilege, how do we bringing up empathetic, compassionate, giving, and aware children?  When society is telling us all the time to be more dissatisfied with our lives and what we have or don’t have, how do we get our eyes off ourselves… ever?  Our daughters have struggled with the reality that they have so much less than so many of their friends when it comes to clothes, iPads, phones, opportunities, you name it.  So how do we get them to see that they have so much more than millions of others?  And not in just material possessions.

I don’t really know.

But we’re trying.

And not because we want our daughters to feel guilty for their privilege, merely aware.  Aware and discontent.  Because once we are aware and discontent we can make changes that work to build up and strengthen all of society, not just ourselves.

“Mommy, why are you crying?”

I hit pause and looked up from my computer screen.  The 6 year old standing there with a concerned expression had dirt smeared on her face, a scrape on her knee, in one hand was a rock, in the other a toy hammer, and she was breathing hard I guessed from her efforts trying to crack open the rock to see if there were crystals inside.  But in that moment she was no longer concerned about possible crystals inside a rock, she was concerned about me.

I had a choice: dismiss it and tell her I was fine or share with her what had caused my tears.  It wasn’t a light topic and it could cause her fear.  At the same time, I want her to develop empathy and I know her spirit is strong.

In my experience, empathy is developed in 2 primary ways: being shown empathy and witnessing empathy expressed for others.  How can we have and express empathy without experiencing it ourselves and without the opportunity to express it for others?  Showing empathy with our children has been an important part of our parenting and a family value we only really grew to have 5 or so years ago.

Since the video didn’t depict any graphic violence or inappropriate sexual activity I shared it with her.  We watched it together, our eyes welling and our arms around each other as I read the subtitles.  When it was over we sat in silence, wiping our tears.

“Those poor girls.  Those poor mommies and daddies.”  She whispered.  I nodded and we hugged tighter.

“My heart would hurt so much if someone took me away from you” and the pain in her voice was genuine.

“My heart would hurt so much if someone took you away from me too” and the pain in my voice was also genuine.

Then she sat up, strong and bold and said “What are we going to do?  We have to do something.  Let’s go get those girls back and take them to their mommies and daddies right now.”

Like Icarus’ was wings, my heart soared for a moment before melting and it sank.  I wanted to say yes!  Let’s go get those girls right now!  My little girl was ready and in her naive way let empathy take her straight to doing something.

“I don’t have the skills to go find and rescue those girls and they are very far away.  But you know what, we can do something in our own way.  The video suggested we write our leaders and ask them to help and spread word so others are aware.  Then maybe the people that are trained to find and rescue people can go do something.  How does that sound?”

She wasn’t completely satisfied and I don’t blame her, I’m not either.  I’m sensitive to how “slactivism” is trendy and getting “likes” on social media is hardly doing something but helping a brand get more traffic.  But in this case this is what I can do so I’m doing it.  Somedays our girls carry sandwiches and snacks to hand out to the homeless we encounter.  Somedays we get to go to India and support local workers and teachers there. Somedays we get to donate finically to a family’s personal cause to get their son the mental health care he needs.  Somedays we get to fundraise for wells and water filters all around the world.  Somedays we get to show empathy to our neighbor and somedays we get to show empathy to our sisters.  Somedays we get to blog and share on social media about a situation that breaks our hearts but we’re completely helpless to do anything about.

So with my daughter I’m sharing this with you to ask for your empathy and your action.  Maybe you and I don’t have the skills to go be a part of the search and rescue (or maybe you do in which case, find out how you can go!) but we can use our voices and ask our country’s leaders to help find these girls.  That and you can share this video with your social circles.  And cry in front of your children, help them grow in empathy too.

We can cry together.


List of organized demonstrations around the world can be found here.

Petition here.

How to contact your leaders if you live in the USA here.

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