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PUTTING ASSETS INTO ACTION: Empathy-We’re Ameri-cans, not Ameri-can’ts

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By The Staff

Feelings account for a lot. In fact, according to the Search Institute, youth benefit from possessing Asset #33, Interpersonal Competence. The institute states, “Youth are more likely to grow up healthy when they have empathy, sensitivity and friendship making skills.”

This week, I have had the honor and pleasure of assisting the Russian delegation from our Sister City in Sarov, Russia, and attending the annual Search Institute Conference.

The beauty is that both experiences resulted in an equal amount of learning on my part. We’ll talk about the Search Institute later in the column and to be honest, probably throughout the entire year.

The Russian delegation taught me about community resources they have established that we can only hope for someday. The school that they represented was comprised of 667 students, in first through 11th grade. Their students keep the same teacher in first through fourth grade and then begin to rotate subjects, more like our middle school model.

A wonderful interpreter told me of her travels to many foreign countries, eventually arriving in the United States. She told me how very difficult in can be for not just a Russian student, but any foreign language speaking student. Their ability to acclimate into an all English speaking population is hard enough but even harder without community support.

So I’ll come directly to the point and ask the community to rise to the aide of any foreign speaking visitors or other residents to the community. If your student mentions a new child at school, attempt to learn their name, where they came from or if your child has interacted with them in any way.

What I heard was how just helping with new information, extending a kind deed or offering a word of comfort really could have made a difference – not just in a daily situation, but in the entire cultural transition.

On occasion, spouses travel to Los Alamos with their laboratory-employed mates and find a life of isolation holed up in a house or apartments, afraid to dive into a culture that is innately ours. We can all shift the focus of our thought process just a bit and think about any new person who arrives in our town. To be honest, when we drove through Santa Fe for the first time, I thought, “Where the hell are we?”

My husband and I had come from the very green surroundings of Washington to the very brown buildings of Santa Fe. To some degree it was a culture shock. The color palette sometimes needs to grow on a new arrival and going from a big city to a small town takes some adjustment in itself. I hosted many play groups where new moms lamented and a few tears were shed.

Think about it, have you ever told a new person to Los Alamos that sometimes explosions are heard here? If it happens and if no one told you, it is alarming. If you have lived here all of your life, it is no different than the sun rising and setting each day. We assume someone must know what they’re doing and if no police or fire sirens are heard, all is right in the world.

What was the issue for you? What do you wish someone had told you when you arrived? If you’d like to share a suggestion drop us an e-mail or give us a call.

A language barrier can be the stumbling block in volunteer opportunities, applying for a job, acquiring needed resources or seeking help at school. Think of the new student, the new parent on the block or the spouse of a co-worker. Have them over for dinner or dessert. As long as one person speaks both languages you’ll do just fine and a smile is the same in any language.

Many old African proverbs can be heard at the Assets conference, a popular one on this trip, “I am because we are; we are because I am.” Make sure you model empathy to those who surround you, no matter what their age. In the words of Aristotle, “Our feelings towards our friends reflect the feelings towards ourselves.”

Bernadette Lauritzen is the Assets Coordinator for Los Alamos. She can be heard Mondays at www.krsnam1490krsn. This week she’ll highlight the upcoming Festival of Chocolate and Trees. She’ll also speak with Principal Cindy Montoya and Librarian Lisa Whitacre. The upcoming Family Literacy Night at Chamisa Elementary School will be open to the entire community to improve the reading skills of all children.