Monday, 2 April 2007

In the other person's shoes

There’s been so much news about domestic maids being bullied by employers and children being abused by supervisors at an orphanage. It is hard to imagine that such abusive behavior is going on around us.

How can employers treat their maids like slaves? These workers travel all the way here to seek employment in a strange land just so that they can provide a better life for their loved ones back home. Most of them are homesick and lonely. Everything around them, from the elevators to the stove and vacuum cleaners, are strange to them.

Yet many employers are often not satisfied with their performance. Some punish their maids by giving them very little food and rest. Others lash out or physically abuse them. If they put themselves in the maid’s shoes, will they be able to adapt to a new environment so quickly? Do they hope to have enough food and rest everyday? Are they afraid of being yelled at again? Do they wish they weren’t here in the first place?

What about those kids at the orphanage? How can the caretakers abuse them? These kids are here because they have no where else to go. Would they come here if they had a choice? Kids are playful and they misbehave from time to time, but do they deserve to be kicked, punched, strangled or slapped? What gives them the right to belittle and treat their charges this way? No one has the right to ill-treat a human being or an animal in any way.

Sometimes my kids tell me how some schoolmates are being taunted and bullied in school. I ask them “Do you feel sorry for the victims?” They hem and haw and say, “But this guy is irritating, that’s why he is being bullied.”
Then, I say, “How would you feel if you were the one being bullied?”

Sometimes, to teach them what’s right or wrong, I tell them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. The answer is usually pretty clear.

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