the government is planning on removing “in God we Trust” from money, Winston Churchill’s father paid for a boy to go to college and that boy would later invent penicillin, saving Churchill’s son, there is a plan afoot to remove religious leaders from TV and radio, and you need to sign a petition preventing a movie from being released that shows Jesus as a homosexual.
So would you please stop clogging my email box with these things? I know you mean well–that you don’t want me or my children to die from baby carrots. Those warnings I actually don’t mind. After all, there was the spinach scare and I vividly remember, as a child, telling my mother that spinach was a horrible toxic substance that would be the downfall of mankind. But I don’t think my dog is going to die from Frebreze or that I am going to get cancer from reusing my water bottles.
So why do we consistently send and receive these emails? What makes us read them and why are we on such a tight deadline? You must always send the email within five minutes to everyone in your address book or you will be the one responsible for the bleach in the carrots or the words, “In God We Trust” falling off the coins.
The ones that disappoint me the most are the ones that I want to be true….the one where Temple Baptist Church was built from a 57 cent donation from a poor girl, or the father who chooses to save a train full of people while sacrificing his own son. I want them to be real–I want them to be true and I think that other people want them to be true, too. That’s the reason they spread them around the Internet. Like children wishing on a falling star, we think if we believe hard enough, it will come true.
I think there are a couple of reasons we constantly send these emails to our friends–we hope we will save someone and we secretly hope that the ordinary of our lives will make a difference.
We hope that our email about toxic carrots or deadly lemons will reach our friends’ in bins moments before they put their lemon-zested water to their lips as they open the bag of baby carrots for a mid-day snack. Our information will stop them, save them from an early demise, and be indebted to us, forever. The Kleenex emails, the ones that show ordinary people doing extraordinary things, channel our secret desire to be ordinary but to still make a difference in the world. If “that” man can save a child that isn’t his, while leaving his own to die, or that child can build a church with 57 cents, maybe I, in my boring, normal 24-7 life can also do something that makes a difference in the world. We forever desire to leave something “bigger” behind.
Why does it have to be a poor child who got turned away from a Sunday school class, who then died and left a note leaving her worldly possessions (57 cents) to build a church that all children could attend? Why couldn’t it be me and my monthly donation? Or your monthly donation? The moral of the story is that she gave all she had and now a huge church is standing because of her (there actually is a grain of truth to the story, here). And we love to hear about the stranger who changes a woman’s flat tire, only to later discover it was Mrs. Nat King Cole. The stranger (us) did the right thing and was rewarded. How often do we feel like we do the right thing and never even get noticed (if you’re a mother, it likely happens multiple times a day). But in our heart of hearts, we love the fact that kindness was delivered when it was unexpected, lives were rewarded, and hearts were changed.
What we fail to see, is that every day, our actions change lives–we just don’t have someone writing emails about them. Our kindness to a sales clerk, our patience with our children (oh, Lord, our patience with our children), our attention to the ignored–all these things–from giving a kind word to refraining from speaking an unkind word–go out into the Universe and make tiny microscopic changes to the world around us. But the tapestry is quite large and the threads are quite fine and we are unable to see our deeds in the moment.
Okay, keep sending me the Kleenex stories. I need a momentary feel-good moment in between changing diapers and cleaning up cat barf. As for the food and cleaner warnings–I’ve decided that prevention is the best cure. No more veggies and my only cleaning will involve sweeping the room with a glance. After all, didn’t you hear, dirt builds a child’s immune system. I’m saving my childrens’ lives.