This week, the theme that caught my attention was this notion of creating sparks or moments of curiosity to activate and facilitate empathy, connection and community. Over on Ashoka’s Start Empathy blog, Joshua Freedman shares an instance where he got frustrated with his son over homework and failed to live up to being the parent he wants to be. His son was putting off doing his homework and Freedman started yelling and blaming him in an aggressive manner. In retrospect, Freedman acknowledges the various failures of emotional intelligence he exhibited in the way he responded to the situation and focuses particularly on the fact that he was overly focused on his own perspective and unresponsive to what his son’s internal reality may have felt like.
When I increase empathy and relook at the situation with compassion, I see a different story. Perhaps he was afraid, too. Perhaps he felt powerless, too. Perhaps he’s learned the exact same pattern I’ve modeled: When you’re afraid, attack. Perhaps our power struggle was simply two people afraid to honestly share their fears.
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Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll remember to take that all-important pause and ask myself: I wonder what’s really going on for him right now? That moment of curiosity is the doorway to empathy, and it’s a game changer.
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That little pause of curiosity is a way to step out of the stress reaction, and step into being the person we choose to be.
Then yesterday I discovered artist Hunter Franks whose various projects aim to do just that–to create these sparks of curiosity that promote empathy, and connection–across communities.
San Francisco-based artist Hunter Franks challenges our ever-increasing personal and physical isolation by transforming public spaces into positive venues of conversation and connection. His public installations create shared spaces and experiences that break down social barriers and catalyze connections between people and communities.
Franks’ various projects include urban interventions such as The Neighborhood Postcard Project which,
collects personal positive stories from underrepresented communities and mails them to random people in different neighborhoods within the same city to catalyze connections between people and neighborhoods.
The Story Forest invited passersby to share a story from when they were little and hang it from the branch of a tree for others to read. The Story Forest created a playful shared space as participants took time to write their story and then weaved through the tree branches, reading the stories of others.
Regardless of what we look like or where we come from, we all share the story of a first love. The First Love Project collects the story of people’s first love as well as a portrait and displays them in public space.
To amplify his efforts at creating moments of curiosity and empathy, Franks started the League of Creative Interventionist:
The League of Creative Interventionists is a global network of people working to build community through creativity. League chapters around the world carry out creative interventions that build connections between people and add to the vibrancy of their communities.
I love everything about this–the mission, the ideas and the execution. To find out more about how to join or start a local chapter of the League of Creative Interventionists, head over to their website, where you can also check out past interventions from around the world. Prepare to be inspired and curious about your neighbors!
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