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  • Brad Eck

Gratitude and Empathy

"Compared to the world around us, we have so many blessings. I often say, “first world problem” when responding to someone who is complaining about their “struggles.” Do not get me wrong, I understand difficulties, trials, etc., but in the context of having a home and food and other necessities, our trials often pale in comparison to others’ struggles for basic human needs.


"Be thankful. Gratefulness is an excellent character trait. It crafts contentment; it encourages humility, and even fosters kindness and charity.


"You are blessed." - Specialisms - Brad Eck


I want to to refer you over to Maslow's hierarchy of needs (see image). Our ability to live a full and complete life is predicated on the idea that we have some fundamental needs being met. So as a summary:


  • In level one, those needs are physiological (air, water, food, etc.) It wasn't too long ago where these were in question (think Great Depression). Many third world countries are facing these types of needs daily. Additionally, many in first world countries are in this position as well. Consider first that you likely don't know where someone is at and so your first assumption about their needs may be fundamentally incorrect.

  • As things settled after the WWII, we started "building back better." Employment became stable and we were able to begin focusing on relationships (level 3). (In fact, it's in the workplace where you can really see these levels solidify.)

  • Over time, a strong economy grew (despite hiccups) and we were able to begin focusing on our health - i.e. self-care, etc. (i.e. level 4: esteem) and many have even been able to pursue their own desires!


I give this background for many reasons as it's so foundational to a psychological / behavioral understanding of where we each are in life - especially for context of our decision making process and more acutely, our perspectives. An example might be that we would not even be addressing our own issues of self-esteem if we were struggling to put food on our table. By extension, , we cannot help someone where they are if we come in at a different level.


So how then does this tie back to gratitude? First, be grateful for where you are - it could be worse ... much worse. Gratitude keeps us humble. Never forget you are actually really close to moving down (or up) one of these levels based on your choices and, yes, many times even the governmental choices happening each day - we can thank 2020 for showing us that one.


But I would like to take this one step further. Some people say (or imply) that you cannot understand or help them if you've never been "there." Being "there" is sympathy whereas putting yourself in someone else's shoes is empathy. One can be fully empathetic to your issue without having experienced it themselves. We oft find ourselves, as special needs parents, seeing the opposite of this - i.e. the complete and utter blindness of those who don't deal with special needs kids taking on a superiority complex. I am super proud of the community of autism parents who have stepped up and made the choice to work through the struggle and still remain humble. It is you who are the winners of this journey. It is you who are the heroes to your children. Keep it up.


And to those whose humility has been overrun by a personal mission to politicize any aspect of the struggle, whether for personal gain or otherwise, we see right through you and, like water in a river will simply move around the rocks that get in the way of our journey of helping our children navigate this world.