The Empathy Card
by kelly gallagher
Life sometimes sends us for rides we never asked to be taken on. Most days I find my ride to feel more like a grind. Sound familiar? Late 30’s, with 4 schedule driven children, a full time teaching job, an incredible Rodan & Fields side gig and a thriving non-profit for premature babies, you could safely say that I keep a pretty tight schedule. My husband often softly reminds me that I do this to myself. I overcommit. I am a serious YES person and I won’t apologize for it! I love people and I adore committing to people and places that make me happy. I admit that I secretly love being busy. I thrive on it! Daycare, soccer, birthday parties… the calendar that never looks empty looms. I would say most people meet me and ask the same question… how do you do it? I have never heard anyone ask me though a more important question, one that may actually explain how I find the time to fill my bucket. Why I do it? My blanket response is the same every time. You will always find time for things that are important to you, whether you want to admit it or not. Because at the end of the day, if your life isn’t feeding your soul, what’s the point? Change it. Move things around to make time for things that matter. Challenge yourself to find your why and I can promise you that you won’t feel so heavy and spread thin.
Want to know a secret? I never truly felt like a giving person before my twin boys were born premature. Sounds awfully selfish, right? Don’t get me wrong, I would often give when I could to causes and people who asked. I would occasionally click the “Donate Now” button for FB fundraisers that tugged at my heart. When reflecting on this, I would like to think my heart wasn’t challenged enough to feel empathy to the level needed to truly understand the notion of giving back to help others. But in reality, maybe I just wasn’t ready as a person. I guess for some people it takes a life changing moment of clarity to find what really moves them to make a difference. For me, it came in 2014. If you aren’t there yet, it’s ok. You will find your empathy card, often hidden under a mountain of previous past mistakes, old regrets or maybe sitting under a pile of unopened mail in your kitchen. But without searching, you will never find it. Keep searching! The gift of empathy will remain unopened. The notion of having this gift exceeds feeling sorry for another person. It isn’t having sympathy for one’s situation. It’s not taking them dinner or sending them flowers.This gift comes from within and can only be opened by one person. Yourself!
But every path is different. Some paths are long, hard, filled with unfamiliar roads filled with all the wrong people. Detours that take work , endlessly frustrating and requiring alternate plans. Others find it easy, quickly arriving at their destination with little to no work. Being a typical type A personality, the pressure to do something, come up big and make a difference in the world of premature birth was burning in my heart. I just needed the courage and the confidence to put myself out there. And god damn, I am so glad I did. If you do one thing this holiday season, find someone else’s shoes. Jump in them for a day. Find your empathy card. Go all in. Your winnings may far outweigh any loss you have ever felt. If I am a betting person, I would bet on the one person who is able to fill your life in a way no one else can. You!
Kelly Gallagher is a Philadelphia native and holds a master’s degree in Special Education. Recently named the recipient of a KYW women's achievement award, she is passoniate about giving back to families who have babies in the NICU.
She is a blogger, wife, dynamic philanthropist and has been a full time elementary school teacher for the past 16 years. She is also the mother of four beautiful children - Addyson, Ryan, Connor and Curran. Kelly founded The Superhero Project Inc in late 2015. This 501c3 organization supports premature babies and their families and started shortly after the premature birth of her twin sons, Connor and Curran, in 2014
Kelly organizes photo sessions, speaks to families and provides them with emotional support needed in a time of crisis. She has donated over $50,000 to hospitals in the Philadelphia area to install Angel Eye Cameras bedside so families can see and interact with their baby 24/7 via a remote and secure feed.
Kelly has allowed her experience in the NICU to transform the role of the family unit and help bridge the gap between home and hospital. She continues to be inspired by the many families who don't start their journey to motherhood easily and motivated to help other moms who need support.