Today, Thursday, April 4th, is the sixth year of my beloved husband Roger’s untimely death, and once again we are honoring his legacy with the observance of #Day4Empathy, a concept Roger embraced wholeheartedly.
For 2019, #Day4Empathy solemnly challenges people to use the day to reflect upon being empathetic amidst an increasingly tumultuous political climate. Empathy differs from sympathy because it calls upon us to put ourselves in the shoes of another, maybe feel what it is like to be a person of a different race, or age, or gender or physical ability or economic status. It helps us to grow compassion for another and creates a desire to alleviate the suffering of another, or to share in their joy and achievements. I believe that social and emotional intelligence are concepts better taught at an early age, and so I am partnering with the Chicago Public Schools system to implement the Empathy Program contest. I hope this will challenge and stimulate creative expression among city youth. The program will launch this fall. Students from ten schools will be able to win one thousand dollars ($1,000) each for their school’s best projects that exemplify empathy in any subject, whether in art, social studies, math and technology, science or drama. We want to encourage them to show us their best interpretations—in any medium—of their definitions of empathy.
Through his work within the film industry, and away from it, Roger advanced a message of shared humanity, unity and connectedness among people of all faiths, races and cultures. It has been my goal and passion to continue shepherding his legacy through the foundation that bears our name, as well as through the #Day4Empathy. This year I have an opportunity to continue to spread the “Ebert Effect” which I define as: Empathy, Kindness, Compassion and Forgiveness. I hope this takes hold both within the City of Chicago and throughout our country. As we go about our day let’s have water cooler discussions about ways to feed the hungry, house the homeless, save our children from violent gun deaths, broker peace, educate our youth, and inspire others to think of us as one big human family.
#Day4Empathy remains a clarion call-to-action for more humility and grace. It’s up to each one of us to create the quality lives, the relationships and the society that we want our children to inherit. And, through the smallest of things—namely our interactions with people we encounter day-to-day—we can start the conversation about the transformative nature of Roger’s compass of values.