Friday, November 20, 2009


There's a cool movement started a few years ago by Stacey Robyn called Go Gratitude (if you have not seen the short Flash movie, just go to the website and click the link--it is visually stimulating) and they are beginning a 42-day cycle of sending anyone who is interested an email each day which offers the beauty and power of gratitude. This new cycle is called World Gratitude. The minute-long video explains it all.

The cycle starts today, which is the end of the fourth year since Stacey began her program in 2005. Sign up if you are interested. You are offered the chance to donate, but no donation is required. And, if you grow weary of all the gratitude flowing to you on a daily basis, you can always unsubscr*be.

Stacey's latest efforts included mention of a concept which I am fully behind: mutually edifying interactions. I love the idea, and I love the flow of the phrase. It is satisfying to say. Makes me feel smart.

It is an idea I have revisited a number of times over the years. How can we create a sharing of our lives with others which is a positive influence in both directions? In other words, both parties benefit and enjoy the sharing.

In small ways, it is so obvious and easy that we don't think about it. Our closest friends are usually people with whom we routinely have these kinds of interactions. Broadening the scope slightly, we may have acquaintances or work buddies with whom we share this same kind of positive energy. We generate good feelings on both sides when we work or play together.

Here's the thing: it is not only possible, but vital that we continue this broadening of scope until we include all of us in the circle of mutually edifying interactions. In fact, it is easy at first. When I have just had a fun conversation with my wife and then go out to run errands, I am more likely to smile when I talk to a clerk, or exchange pleasantries with the librarian I have come to know well enough to call by name.

The greater challenge is in extending the bubble to include people we don't know who we now consider to be "other." At the greatest extent, these are folks who are not like us on the surface, and who are unfamiliar to us because of geographic separation and cultural differences.

We already know, in our hearts, that those others are really no different than our friends. We know that we can accept them. We are aware, deep down, that we owe them the same opportunity to gain our trust and friendship that we offer freely to people we meet randomly in our local wanderings.

The secret is to create situations where the artificial barriers are removed. It happens now in retreats which bring together members of normally antagonistic groups. In the Middle East, there are formal retreats taking place where teenagers from Israel and from Arab countries get together for a few days. At the end of the session, they are friends almost without exception. In many cases, those friendships survive the return to each participant's native culture.

Planting the seeds of future understanding is one important technique, and these retreats are an example. Another interesting phenomenon is the progression which takes place as more and more people come to a place of open-heartedness. It seems that, as more people arrive, the influence on those who are still on the journey increases.

Here's the fun part: it doesn't increase gradually, where twice as many people exert twice as much influence. It increases at a much-higher rate than that. I don't know what the rate is, but it may well be exponential. Two people exert four times the pull of one, three people create nine times the pull, four create 16 times as much influence. Heck, I think it may be accelerate even faster than that, but the example serves to illustrate what I am conveying.

It is this increase in influence which is at the center of my hope for the future of mankind. Because we are able to have a huge impact even with a comparatively small percentage of all of us participating, I know it is possible for us to turn this great endeavor toward greater joy, toward peace and acceptance, toward a time when we care for each other instead of competing as if there were limited opportunities.

You see, we live in a universe of bounty. We are blessed with the infinite abundance which is ours for the asking. Today, it sometimes feels to me like we are two critters fighting over a single grain of rice while standing knee-deep in a thousand-acre rice paddy.

It is, though, all about perception. For those of us who see nothing but a dwindling, there will be evidence of exactly that. For those who know that provision is made for those who expect the best of our future, the brighter future is coming and is already shining over the horizon.

All of this begins right now, today, in our own lives. It begins with a willingness to look strangers in the eye with open acceptance and a smile. It starts with a gentleness with which we react to what we would once have perceived as a personal slight or transgression.

The question in my mind is not why I should participate in this grand experiment, but why anyone would not. Nothing is at risk, and there is much to gain.

This movement begins with mutually edifying interactions. Please join me.

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