A Whistle That Touches My Heart

May 10, 2017

Name: Frances Ullman

Home: Alexandria, VA

Job: My Mom

Fran’s Whistle: Empathy

How I Know Fran: We met on May 9, 1963 at 3:16 pm in the delivery room of Peck Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, though I have no recollection of the blessed event.

Whistle in Action: In our kitchen growing up hung a plaque: “Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” That well captures my mother’s spirit of empathy, which pervades her thoughts and deeds. It’s as if her own challenging childhood gave her a window into the hidden struggles that so many of us have. When my siblings and I complained of annoying grade school classmates, mom’s response was universally: “Be nice to them, they have problems at home.” Though the response itself was frustrating to a pre-teen seeking validation of grievances, over time it seeped into my soul. Today when I show compassion to someone in need, it’s my mom’s heart and love I’m channeling. Her empathy is so simple, but so mind-bogglingly deep. It comes from a complex place I will never fully comprehend; it manifests itself in ways that are obvious and devoid of rationale, as pure love should be; it is instinctual, joyous. Because of her I try hard to ask questions and listen to the answers; I’ve learned to extend a hand rather than a finger; I’ve seen that the journey is better if the shoes I’m wearing aren’t always mine.

(Find this and other whistles that touch my heart in my new book Find Your Whistle: Simple Gifts Touch Hearts & Change Lives.)