In my recent book, Beyond the Comma, a key challenge for the reader is to be integrate the intimate moments of life with national, even global, realities. It is my premise that in so doing, the capacity for empathy increases.
As the week began, it was my hope to reflect upon the changing seasons. Having lived most of my life in the northeast, I’ve always been fascinated by the post-peak fall season, as the naked, dark grey branches interrupt the clouds of red, orange and yellow of the remaining autumn leaves. In keeping with the premise above, I was hoping to juxtapose this comforting annual transition with the hectic pace of headlines, seeking solace in the knowledge that the earth turns, God is in charge and, if we are attentive, we are witnesses to the ever-unfolding miracle of nature.
Then Halloween happened and I was reminded again that it is a fool’s errand to plan to write a message at the beginning of the week that won’t be posted until week’s end. Things change in an instant—comma moments, I call them in my book—separating what has come before from what follows. The horror of the terrorist truck on the bike path on lower Manhattan’s west side eclipsed any attempt to write about other subjects.
Although the elements changed dramatically from the beginning of the week, the initial point of my post remains the same. Halloween has been for me, and for many, a time to gather with family, to dress up in costumes and visit other neighborhood homes and, in joyful abandon masked by ghosts and goblins, to reconnect with your inner child.
It was—apparently intentionally—in the midst of schools being released and parents preparing for such an evening of Halloween revelry with young children that this unthinkable act of terror was unleashed.
What is the lesson I take away from this year’s Halloween? As we encounter relentless headlines of a world in chaos, we need more than ever to lift up the potential for innocence and creativity that Halloween represents. We need to empathize with our children, to find inspiration in their imaginations. We need to understand that empathy is not limited to distant populations who may be religiously, culturally or racially “other,” but rather it begins in our families. We must pause and see the world through the wisdom of our children. We must rekindle our own imaginations and allow ourselves time to play, to experience the change in seasons, to set aside the headlines and duck for apples or decorate for Thanksgiving. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says in The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” As we pause to allow our hearts to fill with the infinite possibilities of child-like wonder, our potential for empathy expands exponentially.
I am thrilled to report that several upcoming dates on my current book tour have recently solidified in places as far away as Florida and California. You can see a calendar of these gatherings in the updated events page on my web site. You can also check out “recaps” of prior events, here and here. Check back periodically to learn about additional events as they are finalized.