“This has not been easy,” my friend Marlon said. “But after 29 years I can tell you, the worst day out here is better than the best day in prison. I’ve come a long way.”
In 2014, I wrote about Marlon’s impending release, his struggle to come home, and the challenges he still faced. Two years later, he has accomplished astonishing things.
Marlon’s story inspires me from two sides. He has received blessings and help from the world, and he has transformed himself. His patience and persistence made people want to help him. His energy, flexibility and determination enabled him to benefit from their help.
As Laurel Mellin wrote in The Solution, “Nobody is going to rescue you from your life.” But you can rescue yourself, and when you try, the world may help you in unexpected ways. It’s working that way for Marlon.
Lately my newsfeed on Facebook has been painful to read. FB sends me stories of war, of death and political corruption. They make me feel bad, yet they keep sending them.
Why? Because I’m telling them to. Facebook is a bunch of computers. They are programmed to send me more of what I like. How do they know what I like? Because when they send stories about police violence or Palestine, I am likely to click on them. I’m more likely to interact with them with a comment or a “like.” The computers even measure how much time I spend looking at a picture or video and include that data in their analysis of me.
Last week was a hard one on Planet Earth. News came of 500 African refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. On the same newsfeed, I saw a report of the death by global warming of the Great Barrier Reef near Australia, the world’s largest living thing.
The Great Barrier Reef in happier days
I grieved. Who wouldn’t be saddened by such enormous losses? I stayed sad for days. I tend to such reactions, but there was more going on, and it might be valuable to look at the causes.
“Name one thing that you can do better without thinking,” my science loving friend Parrish challenged. It took me a while to call them to mind, but here are five such things. It turns out a pretty important list. If you think all the time, you will miss out on the best life has to offer and cause a lot of grief in the process. Give your thinking brain some time off when you want to:
Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux says “When we feel anxiety, fear, or depression, we cannot force our emotional brain to stop them.” No amount of thought can convince the emotional brain that things are all right. Because life was so dangerous for millions of years, brains evolved to put fear first, ahead of love, pleasure, and rationality. Fear bosses us around for a reason.
The single most mind-blowing factoid I ever heard – the human body produces about 2.4 million new red blood cells (RBCs) every…..second. Day and night, second after second, 2.4 million new life forms. There is more going on in your body at this very moment than in all of downtown Tokyo at rush hour.
Yesterday on Facebook, near the top of my newsfeed, I saw a post from a page called Disarm the Police in America. It started “The following families will have an empty chair at their Christmas dinner.” I clicked on it and found a long series of pictures of victims of police shootings. Under each one, page host Rick Hill had written: “Our family will keep your family in our prayers.” In the comments under each post, a woman named Patricia had typed “JUSTICE for (the person pictured.”) In some cases, family members of victims had commented things like “Thanks everyone for your support.” “Still fighting for justice,” “It still hurts.”
On and on for at least 30 people whose cases Disarm the Police are following. I was sobbing after the first three, but I couldn’t stop reading. I’m crying about it now, just thinking about it. But that brings up the question, why was I reading it? Why couldn’t I stop? It’s not like reading their stories was doing the families any good. I wasn’t learning anything new. These were just 30 cases out of thousands in the USA and thousands more worldwide.
All I was getting out of it was sadness. So why look?
I think it’s fair to say my mother June was loved. With adoring children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, friends, lovers, and colleagues, it only took her 80 years to realize it. She started to pick up on others’ love only after my brother Daniel persuaded the whole family to tell her, “I love you” every chance we got. Even then it took years.
June at 87
There’s nothing unusual about June’s slow uptake. If you’re like most people, you have no idea how much you are loved. But you are, and I can prove it.
Posted in healing, Reasons to Live, Uncategorized
Tagged agape, Gary Chapman, gifts, Lori Deschene, love, phileo, service, sex, touch