Wednesday marks the fifth anniversary of Roger Ebert’s death, and the legendary film critic’s widow hopes to pay tribute to his memory by encouraging Chicagoans to find room for empathy in their day-to-day lives.
As part of Chicago’s inaugural “Day4Empathy,” as it’s dubbed by the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, ambassadors for the organization will canvass the city handing out “kindness cards” and bracelets spurring people to perform acts of kindness.
“We’re seeing bullying at the highest levels of our government. And I just wanted to remind our schoolchildren and ourselves that this is not the way things have to be,” Chaz Ebert said. “Roger said that empathy is one of the cornerstones of civilization.”
Chaz will follow along with an “empathy truck” making stops across the city, stopping to interview people about what the idea means to them. The foundation is also introducing an arts contest awarding 10 awards of $1,000 to Chicago Public Schools students for their depictions of the definition of empathy.
The anniversary of the critic’s death falls on the same date as that of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, a coincidence that Chaz said was on her mind in planning the Day4Empathy.
“Dr. King said, ‘The time is always right to do what’s right,” she said.
Roger Ebert earned a Pulitzer Prize and countless other accolades during more than four decades with the Chicago Sun-Times, earning a reputation as one of the most respected and recognizable film critics in the world. He died at age 70 on April 4, 2013, following long bouts with cancer.
“He was such a gifted film critic. But to me, his true gift was his love and his ability to communicate empathy,” Chaz said. “When I think about Roger and his legacy, that’s the biggest gift he gave us.”