“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
A jumble of thoughts awaken me each morning in the past few weeks as I seek to listen in silence for my response to the current migrant-refugee family crisis, not only in the United States but worldwide. As I dipped in and out of the news recently (a steady dose feels too toxic), I found myself nauseated. The aching in my heart has not left. To see innocent, unknowing children being taken from their mothers and fathers, to hear the cries of babies and young children in shock wondering what happened to their families, to the familiar, shakes my soul. I wondered what was the purpose of traumatizing children as adults fought over their family’s fate.
In the next moment I think back to the fall semester of my junior year in college. I’m sitting in a physics class and wondering why I enrolled in it. I had long since disabused myself of any desires to attend medical school. That fantasy flew from my sleepy first year head as I watched televised lectures of biology 101 in my friend, Linda’s dorm room. My small group of friends and I gathered together each Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 8:00 am knowing that one of us would be snoring in the first 10 minutes. I slept more than I absorbed the basic foundations of biology. I reflected later that completing one semester each of biology and physics was one in a collection of symbols of my decade long struggle to prove myself. Although I wasn’t nearly as excited about physics as psychology some information remained with me. One piece was Newton’s third law of motion—for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I selected this law, modified it by being the opposing reaction. Then I intentionally applied it to many things—exercise, health, psychological dueling with others, even writing. It seems that every time I attempt to push through the endless obstacles toward a disciplined writing schedule, for example, the resistance slaps me back in the face. I persist through the feelings of immobilization to counter this reaction.
I also utilize this construct in a positive way in my spiritual life. For every negative or unloving act I observe, I deliberately perform a loving or positive act. I think of it as—fighting darkness with LIGHT. Each time I observe someone engage in an activity that lacks empathy and compassion, I hear a more powerful call to double down on love and mercy. Yes, my new adage is “Double-down on love.”
I understand the feelings of helplessness that come from viewing these tragedies play out in the daily news and on social media. Yet there are so many moments during the course of a day that provide opportunities to express sensitivity. Maybe a person cuts me off on the highway, or the receptionist at the doctor’s office acts rude or indifferent. Rather than respond to a driver with an ugly gesture or act rude in return, I smile, bless them with kindness and gentleness instead.
I am so moved by the news of people countering unloving behavior with loving acts. My favorite couple of the year, Charlotte and Dave Willner, feeling powerless about the fate of the separated children, raised over 20 millions dollars for RAICES, a legal fund for migrant families. One of my retired colleagues chose to help two women in her retirement home who were without legal status. From her walker, Barbara relentlessly called friends and lawyers until these two women received their green cards. There are many churches who for a number of years have offered sanctuary to immigrant and refugee families. This reminds me of chain transplants also known as organ paired donations, a movement that has grown in popularity. There are endless chances to pay it forward encouraging a contagion of love.
Great good can emerge from cruelty and callousness. I believe response to FEAR (and isn’t that at the core of the crisis) with LOVE. It may sound counter-intuitive but I’ve always believed the Biblical passage, “Perfect love casts out fear,” (John 4:18 ). You can extinguish darkness with light. But the opposite is never true. You cannot eradicate light with darkness. Although dimmed temporarily, light triumphs over darkness every time. However, when I walk into an unlit room, rather than fear the darkness, I must engage in the action of turning on the light.
What kind of loving acts can you counter fear with or pay forward? In what ways will you bring light and love to those who feel as if they are stuck on the bottom of a barrel of darkness? On your spiritual journey would doubling down on love help to uncover more of the peace and joy in your heart?
No copyright infringement intended on the helping hands image.