Imagination and empathy changes “their” problem to “our” problem. It changes indifference to difference.
Moshe grew up in the Egyptian royal palace surrounded by luxury. He could have easily turned a blind eye to the suffering of his brothers in slavery and continued his life in comfort. But he intentionally “went out to his brothers, and looked on their burdens” (Exodus 2:11).
Rashi explains “looking on their burdens” as directing both his eyes and his heart. Not only did he see with his eyes what was going on around him, but he felt it in his heart. He saw, and he cared. He chose to make their suffering his suffering.
Rabbi Dessler explains that God created us with a valuable tool. The power of imagination.
Using imagination as a tool for empathy by picturing the feelings of another can be a powerful springboard into inspiring us to help people, and in enabling us to understand the best ways in which to do so.
Using the gift of imagination in order to empathize, like any skill, takes practice. When sitting waiting for an appointment, waiting in line in a shop, or any situation with an opportunity to observe people, take a moment to exercise this tool. Tap into the power of imagination and be curious. What might these people be thinking? Feeling? Experiencing?
Empathy inspires action. When Moshe felt the burden of his brothers, he was then able to step in and help them. Let’s not just see with our eyes, but also see with our hearts.