Is Empathy the Key to Creativity?
In Destino, we’ve talked a lot recently about creativity and our need to create something new in our movments. We don’t do this for the sake of novelty or just because we like to be different, but we do this for the sake of hope for those that have previously been excluded. The history of our organization points to ethnic minorities not being included in our ministry as a whole. We see that and know that for a different future we need to lead in a different direction. We need to lead in a new way.
But what if you don’t really see yourself as the creative type? The culture of Cru is generally seen as one of pragmatism and practicality, so we either attract people who view themelves in this light or we mold people into believing that they are this type. Either way, our organizational personality is one that lends itself towards this.
I watched a fascinating TED talk from the founder of IDEO about how to build your creative confidence. In it, David Kelley shared that in actuality we are all creative people, but that along the way our innate creativity has gotten squelched and needs to be re-awakened.
I would agree that we are all creative people primarily because I believe that the God whose image we bear is a creative God. But what I found most intriguing about this talk by David Kelley was the story he told about Doug Dietz, a designer of MRI machines. He shared about how Doug had a moment of crisis in his life when he met a young girl and her family in a hospital and this girl was terrified of this machine he had created to save lives. The fact that something he made struck fear in so many children deeply moved him and motivated him to come up with a new way of using the MRI machine on kids. His solution was so brilliant and innovative, but what most stuck out to me was that the idea was originally born out of empathy. Doug Dietz entered the story of the people he was seeking to serve and it changed him and ultimately pushed him in new direction.
I see the same to be true in Destino. When we enter into the realities of the community we are seeking to serve, the empathy that surfaces in us will push us to dream new ways of fulfilling the Great Commision within the Latino culture. While I don’t often put empathy and creativity together, this talk really challenged me to see them as essentially integral to the other. Without empathy and a knowing of the story of the people we love and minister to, we won’t create something new.
So, maybe you like many in our ministry are thinking, “this is nice in theory but what does it mean tomorrow for me on campus?”
What I would say to those of you asking this question is that the most practical, pragmatic thing you can do for the long-term fruitfulness of your movement is to learn the stories of the students involved. Learn what challenges and barriers they experience in their families, churches, and student life. Learn what grieves them, trips them up, brings them joy, and empassions them. Without a posture of learning from the ethnic minorities you are seeking to reach, you will likely never create anything new but merely repeat the models you have always seen and are most familiar to you.
So, whether you see youself as creative or not, are you willing to tap into that creative part of you, not for your own sake but for the sake of others? I would say that in Destino we can’t afford not to do this. We need the “creative” in all of us to realize a new future where Latinos are reached, built, and sent out to change the world. I pray we’ll all be changed in that process too.
photo courtesy: auro