Hey, did you hear? It’s flu season! Lots of people in my community are getting the sniffles, and I have been getting notices from school nurses and newscasters to get my flu shot and wash my hands. Duly noted. I want to stay healthy, and I‘m well aware that viruses can spread like wildfire. But I’ll be honest – it’s not the sniffles that I’m worried about.
My son got the stomach flu on Tuesday. He was up from 2:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. with nausea and a fever, clearly in misery. Then he took a nap, and watched a movie, took another nap, ate some Saltines, kept some water down, and fell asleep again. Within 24 hours he was back and at ‘em, with nary a scratch on him.
Most of us recover from the flu in 24 hours – but we are often infected with more insidious elements that take much longer to heal from. I’m talking about shame, and guilt, and anxiety. I’m talking about the cruel thing that a mean classmate said to us in the third grade that hit us at our core and never quite left us. (“Don’t go into the tunnel – Scary Carrie is in there! She’s gross!”) I’m talking about the guy that that you thought was The One, who shattered your heart in two sentences. (“I just don’t connect with you like I do with Michelle. She’s fun – and you’re a little too serious for me.”) I’m talking about that time we were laid off because we were expendable at work. (“We need to look at the bottom line, and you’ve become redundant.”) I’m talking about all the times that we’ve been told, overtly or between the lines, that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t measure up, that we aren’t worth someone’s time or energy.
It’s not always so dramatic – in fact, it’s usually not. Sometimes it’s just repeated exposure to enough negative people for a long enough time that kills our spirits and poisons our souls. We’ve all been in a room with someone who has a toxic energy field around them. They walk in like Eyeore with an invisible dark cloud around them, and have nothing positive or encouraging to say about anything. You say something innocent like, “Good morning,” and they respond with, “Did you see the traffic on I-25? God, what a commute. I need coffee. This office coffee is crap. Why is this company so damn cheap?” They infect you with their negativity just by being in your presence.
We’ve all also been in a room with someone who lights you up. There are people that have a positive atmosphere around them that envelops you and attracts you like a magnet. I vividly remember meeting one of my clients, Jane, for the first time and being overwhelmed with her captivating charisma. She greeted me with a giant smile and a firm handshake, asked with genuine interest how my day was going, and her laugh – God, her laugh was incredible. I had been tasked with talking to this woman about a difficult subject, and we got to that uncomfortable situation in due time – but despite what was on the agenda, the whole experience was joyful. I left with a smile on my face. By the end of the meeting both Jane and I were laughing like old friends. I remember leaving that office thinking, “I want to be her. I want to be that infectious. I want to make people feel as good as she made me feel.”
The kid that called me gross in 3rd grade probably didn’t realize the impact he’d have on me that day, and I’d guess that the coworker who always started the day off with complaints didn’t mean for his negative energy to rub off on me. I don’t think they realized how much power they had. Similarly, I don’t think that Jane intended to lift my spirits the way she did the day I met her. She was just being Jane. Her positivity positively radiated off of her and it infected me a great deal. I’m still talking about that encounter a dozen years later!
I want to be that kind of person. I want to infect people around me with joy and compassion. I want to radiate harmony and peace. I want to spread happiness and love.
We tend to think that we are insignificant in the grand scheme of things – that we don’t or can’t affect our communities in any lasting way. The more I learn in life, the more I realize that simply isn’t true. Everyone matters. The little things are often the most important. Catching the eye of a cashier at Best Buy and seeing a genuine smile on their face matters. It just does.
It may sound like a lot of New Age hooey to talk about energy fields and the impact of emotion on our environment, but the truth is that we commonly accept many every day examples of the impact of energy. I’ve seen an experiment floating around social media shows the impact of electronic radiation on mold growth. The mold won’t grow when it’s exposed to electronics. I’ve also read a few studies about the impact of sending positive thoughts to houseplants. Plants that get loving thoughts sent their way grow better than those that do not. If plants can be affected by their environment, then it stands to reason that humans can be, too. It stands to reason that humans can, in fact, be much more impacted by other humans than plants can be. I watched a video of a woman laughing in a Chewbacca mask yesterday and started hysterically laughing myself. People who live together end up have similar immune systems, proving that our health can absolutely be affected by people who are near us. Quantum physics has also shown that two people left in a room together for an hour end up sharing or swapping actual human cells. That’s astounding! The implication of that is mind-blowing. You can’t read that and think that you don’t have an impact on the world around you. Just by existing and sharing space with another human, you have an impact. You matter. You matter a great deal.
Bad things happen in life, to be sure. We all have struggles that are incredibly real and raw and powerful. But we also have unbelievable power inside of us to not only lift ourselves up, but to lift up those around us.
Sometimes we think we don’t matter, and that we don’t make much of an impact in the world. But we are powerful beyond our imagination. Every single moment we are undoubtedly affecting the plants, the people and the world around us.
What are you going to spread today?