Birth, Death and a Lesson in Empathy

This past week our cat had her babies. We never did anything like this before, so it was uncharted territory for me, and our family. But it turned out bittersweet.

One of the kittens could not thrive and passed away at only a day or two old. We decided to hold a brief memorial service with our kids and bury the kitten in our backyard. I was surprised by my daughters strong reaction when she was worried about putting the kitten directly in the ground without a protective box. Thinking about her concerns, I realized there was a visceral reaction to putting a defenseless creature in the outside elements. Would a cardboard box disintegrate along with the tiny kitten? Of course. But the reality of this is somehow masked when it isn’t laying straight on the ground.

Jonah Halper - kittenThis made me think about how we all want to feel safe from the elements and that as we grow older we mature in this thinking and recognize the difference between perceived and real safety and security.

We often raise money to provide a safety net for a less than fortunate audience. If someone’s safety and security is missing or lacking, we should communicate this to our prospective donors and partners so they can tap into that same fear which is a natural part of our own lives. This is true empathy. Using your own fears and concerns to try and experience the challenges of others.

My daughter was worried about putting the kitten in the ground, I can understand and empathize how jarring this could be for her. I therefore made sure to comfort her and explain how the dirt deep underground is soft and covering it like a blanket, and protecting her from the weather and other animals that may try to hurt her.

The kitten is safe, and so is my daughter.