Friday, February 7, 2014

Contagion - or, When You're Smiling

I have to admit that when I worked for a couple of years as a microbiologist not too long ago (Car 16 - a Reminiscence), I thought it was really cool to be in a place that had creepy biohazard symbols posted on the doors and refrigerators. We worked with some fairly nasty critters living in test tubes and petri dishes that, if they made it from the lab into the coffee room, could turn the latter into Ground Zero of our very own epidemic.

On the subject of spreading, I was pleasantly surprised to read these words and then learn who wrote them:

Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good.
This is always a slow process and we can be overly fearful. But if we allow doubts and fears to dampen our courage, instead of being creative we will remain comfortable and make no progress whatsoever. In this case we will not take an active part in historical processes, but become mere onlookers as the Church [or the world, or society, or the individual] gradually stagnates.
                 - Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium Nov. 24, 2013)

I think this applies to each of our own efforts to influence the spread of compassion, whether in general, or in specific undertakings like promoting gender equality and animal liberation, or working to eliminate the death penalty and war.

We sometimes wonder, in acts of kindness, does size matter? Just sharing a smile, or, like Mother Teresa, living a tireless life deeply dedicated to relieving suffering. I think if we act with our whole heart when an opportunity to be kind presents itself, perhaps the question doesn't matter. (By the way, Mother Teresa said, “I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much.”)

Little things can add up to a lot. Tipping points are reached when small things reach a critical mass. Videos of random acts of kindness can go viral.

A life full of kindness of any kind is a full life.

A little tubbier then, with elbow in the Listeria monocytogenes
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