learning to care
There are a few things we are born knowing how to do: breathing, blinking, crying, eating. Caring is not one of these things. Humans are not born knowing how to care. We learn to care. It is often a natural part of development, so natural it is easy for us to forget we learn to care.
Sometimes kids live hard lives, bouncing from home to home. They survive, but at the same time there are many feelings they don’t know because of all the wrong feelings they do know. For successful survival empathy is often shut down. This makes it easier to protect your heart.
Recently I received a note from Hannah. She wrote to me her concern about Jordan. He’s happy when we’re sad or frustrated and he gets sad or mad when we’re happy. It’s a little annoying.
I smiled a small smile reading her note. It was a smile of understanding. We expected this behavior. See, Jordan isn’t the first kid in history to act like this. In fact, he’s not even the first Ayres’ child to act like this.
Time, I wrote back to Hannah, he needs time to learn to trust us. The very best thing we can do is not let Jordan change our moods. We will be happy during happy times and we won’t get more upset when he laughs during frustrating times.
It will get better, I wrote, I promise.
“How do you know?” Hannah asked after reading the note.
“You’re not going to believe this, ” I said. “See, a long time ago we adopted two little girls and both of them would get cheery when others were upset and sad when others were happy.”
Hannah’s mouth dropped open. Her voice was too many octaves too high. “You’re talking about me?” She was indignant. “I acted like Jordan?”
I smiled. “Jordan is a combination of you and Stephanie, but yes, you, Hannah-Bear, had very similar behaviors.”
Her hands on her hips, her head cocked to the side, she was speechless. I hugged her.
“How’d I quit laughing at people and being sad when they were happy?”
“You learned to care.”
She learned to care, just like all of us can learn to care. It takes time, but eventually people can reinstate their empathy. When basic needs are met, kids can begin to learn to care.
“Can you make it go fast for Jordan?” Hannah asked, her voice muffled in my shoulder.
I wish. I don’t have the heart to tell her that learning to care is a journey we are all on. It is easier some days than others. Out loud I said, “It takes time. He’ll have to learn to care.”
“I’m going to pray. God can speed it up,” Hannah said.
Family and prayer and lots and lots of love can support the healing necessary for someone to learn to care. This conversation was just a few days ago. Today Jordan sat with his three siblings and they played. They talked. They laughed. He laughed with them. He offered help when someone was frustrated. He cracked a joke and made them laugh again.
He is learning to care.
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