Empathy is kindness, nonjudgmental understanding, and emotional feelings for the plight of others.
“Some of the young people who come here have negative attitudes and resistance to rules,” notes Lillie Simmons, a security officer assigned to the Villard Square Branch of the #MilwaukeeCountyFederated LibrarySystem. “I tell them, no matter where you are and what you do, there will always be rules. Your attitude determines your altitude. If you have a negative attitude, you won’t go far in this life.”Located in the modest 53209 zip code, Villard Square Library occupies the ground floor of a mixed-use building of apartments for grandparents raising their grandchildren. Contemporary libraries, where visitors spend an average of 1.5 hours, provide free access to streams of resources that encourage social inclusion and equity, i.e., classroom instruction, entertainment, computers, audiobooks, Braille materials, community meeting spaces, and tutoring for adults. As Simmons tells it, “A lot of young people don’t have respect for their elders. But I believe that if they are approached with respect, most will respond that way. Some parents and grandparents today work so much and don’t have time for their children. I feel for them and talk to them as a caring parent would. I also help the librarians if needed.”
Research completed by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor Shelley Taylor found that unlike men, women are more likely to respond to stressful situations by socializing, bonding, seeking protection and nurturance.” According to Taylor’s findings, women may have higher levels of oxytocin, sometimes called the ‘love hormone’ associated with bonding, social connection, and monogamy.Kimberly Boldt, Manager at Villard Branch, says,-“Lillie has great customer service skills. She also makessure that people understand and follow the rules so that everybody can enjoy this place.”Raised by her grandmother, Simmons was six years old when they moved to Milwaukee from Basefield, Mississippi. She says, “I’ve learned that a lot of people have problems with those who wear uniforms, especially women. Some men don’t believe that women are capable of fulfilling their duties because we’re considered the weaker sex. But I believe that a woman can do just about anything that a man can.” “I was raised to go to church.” No doubt, this spiritual foundation was tested and reinforced by the deaths of her two sons. “In 1993 my 12-year-old baby boy was sitting on the porch with friends when he was shot as part of a gang initiation drive-by shooting. My 21 years old middle son was sitting in his car waiting to take his uncle to the store when our neighbor’s grandson shot into the car and killed him with a AK47. I praise God every day that my oldest son is still alive, and care more about people now than ever.
Linda J. Concroft