Nashville School Shooting: My Wish for All the People of the World (It's Not Power or Money) by Melissa Vickers

Opinion Headlines
a year ago

Nashville School Shooting: My Wish for All the People of the World (It's Not Power or Money)

Another mass shooting at a school? I don't know what to say, except that if I could give all people in the world one gift, it would be the gift of empathy, or the ability to feel what another person feels. Imagine how different the world might be if we could glimpse how the other person feels, and how our actions might make that person feel better or worse.

Empathy is the underpinning of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule really is a plea for the others to have empathy toward you and what you are thinking and feeling. And inherent in that rule is that we would also have reciprocal empathy toward the others.

It’s not a matter of only being able to be empathetic toward those like us or who agree with us. You can be empathetic toward even your worst enemy, and perhaps, in so doing, find some common ground.


  • How different playgrounds might be if a bully could feel empathy toward the victim and not wish it in return?
  • How different our laws would be if politicians could see past their supporters and feel empathy for the others?
  • How different the outcomes might be if empathy were to be granted toward the mass shooters to be understood and made to feel worthy – long before they have a chance to grab the gun and kill?

And really, it is an attempt to give a gift that we all already possess. Empathy is inherently human. It is part of our collective fabric and being that recognizes that embracing another as if we really understood what it is to walk in their shoes is a blessing for the entire community.

I’m not so naïve as to believe that activating empathy in all would suddenly solve the problems of the world, but I sure would like to see it more evident in our day-to-day encounters.

How can we nurture empathy in ourselves and others?

It starts with the children. When we help them identify their own feelings, we help give them the tools to recognize those feelings in others. When we model how showing empathy to others helps everybody get along better, we teach the children in ways that can’t be learned in a classroom. 

Richard Rogers’ classic song from South Pacific admonishes that “you’ve got to be taught to hate and fear ... before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight.” The flip side of that – and really, the point of the song – is that if you can be taught to hate, then you can be taught to love. And empathy is the first step.

You really do have to be carefully taught.

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Ann Marie Patitucci
Thank you for this beautiful message, Melissa. This, in particular, resonates with me: "if you can be taught to hate, then you can be taught to love. And empathy is the first step." So true. Babies aren't born hateful. Hate is taught; so is love. We could certainly use more love and empathy in our country right now.
Elisa Schmitz
That's exactly the line that I read over again, Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead . Beautifully said, Melissa Vickers . Let's hope we can all start to turn the terrible tide of violence, by teaching one child at a time. Thank you for sharing these powerful words about yet another heartbreaking tragedy. God bless the lives lost, and the families shattered.
I’ve been crying my eyes out all day 💔

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