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STORIES -'You could say ouch!'
-by Wendy

Several years ago I learnt a very valuable lesson in Empathy from my then, three year old son, Jas-Peter.

After experiencing the roller coaster ride that is living with Zeraiah a.k.a Zsa zsa d'amour, Johanan who's name means "Gift from Jehovah", was just that - a real gift. A dream baby who did everything on cue and who even had the sense to let me know when it was time to be potty trained! Then came Jas-Peter!!

Jas because the the name means "Hidden in Jehovah's palm". Peter because he was the living image of Peter-Romaine my first son, who would have been 21 years old today.. In and through everything we always give thanks!!!! After the trauma of losing my first son I was overjoyed to have his "twin" and felt the need for divine protection. Little did I know how aptly named this little terror was! A real hurricane who was nothing on Houdini!! Pulling Jas out of washing machines, freeing him from awkward gaps/holes were daily occurrences... standing transfixed to the ground as he carefully opened a bottle of bleach and announced I need dwink want some?? All moments when I threw myself on God’s mercy and reminding Him of His promises to Hide in the palm of His Hand.

Jas was at best a nuisance and at worst a security risk to himself. Living life on the edge was his MO and, by the age of three his party piece was proudly showing off injuries which he displayed with an array of strategically placed plasters!! Jas could tax the patience of a statue and it came with a fearlessness that made him stick his nose into the barrel of a soldiers gun and say go on then pull the trigger... your gun’s not real... come on then what you waiting for? The cartoon character "Dennis the menace" was not a patch on this boy!

One Saturday afternoon the family were enjoying a nice summer afternoon in the garden, Zeraiah sat regally in her chair smelling the roses, Johanan, contemplating how he could change the world for kids, scribbled furiously in his little book as the ideas came. The peace and tranquility of the moment was interrupted by a piercing scream from Jas... Help Muuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmy Help!!!!

As he approached torn and bleeding from the rose bush scratches, limping badly from "the superman jump", his screams could be heard throughout the neighborhood! Mummy the tree tore my shirt... and the stairs wouldn't let me down so I had to jump... The rose bush wouldn't let me through; I'm bleeding to death... I looked up from my magazine and barked, "Well, what can I do about it?" He shrugged and said, “Nothing but you could at least say ‘Ouch’." Mummy!!!!”

Ouch!! What a wonderful metaphor to remind us of the power and importance of caring and taking the time to show it. Jas wasn't asking me to solve his problem, at three he was a seasoned first aider and his love of plasters made being injured a totally pleasurable experience. What he was asking was for me to share an event. What he wanted was EMPATHY!!

As a mother I have a tendency to focus on fixing rather than feeling... At that moment I learned a really valuable lesson, EMPATHY is not an intellectual ability. It’s an emotional quality with healing power that works only when expressed. Sometimes being there, just listening and showing genuine interest and compassion are all that’s needed... just saying OUCH!!!

My young son Jas taught me, that the remedy was a simple "ouch" or even better a hug and a kind word! Of course having an endless supply of Thomas the Tank Engine plasters also helped the healing process. Or in the event of a major catastrophe where our resident medical expert Johanan advised that the injuries were surely fatal and life was fast ebbing away, an adhesive bandage had amazing resurrecting powers!

10 years on I am still learning that tenderness is more important than toughness... Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else's position so you can sincerely say Ouch I felt that for you and mean it! Jas has moved on and is now dealing with "personal space issues"... and "energy levels" that rise or fall depending on whether its basketball or maths homework.

It’s easy to laugh at the anecdotes above, but there’s something truly wonderful about how often a loving hug or touch makes things better for young children. We shouldn't underestimate the healing power of sincere compassion, concern, and affection. We ought to try it more on adults. Take a moment to acknowledge each other’s "ouches," too, and simply be there - with a kiss, a hug, or a kind word of consolation. The popular song says what the world needs now is love... but what the world needs is people who care enough to say OUCH!!!!!

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