In 2005, the Journal of Applied Microbiology published a study finding that the spray from flushing a toilet can reach about 6 feet in multiple directions. The study also proved that the spray indeed includes microorganisms and particles of whatever else was present.
This finding made me think about stuff spreading. An analogy I have in my head refers to goodwill, acts of courage and trust. There’s a reason “pay it forward” has become part of our lexicon. It connotes selfless or gracious acts and how the positive effects are shared by the doer and the receiver. Volunteering, service and donating are examples of single triggers that can spread rapidly and influence other people and entire communities.
Unfortunately, bad stuff spreads too. Acting out of bad will, failing to trust and anything that smells selfish or disingenuous can be pernicious. Even little things, like not respecting someone based on the job they have, the way they dress, or their lifestyle can erode relationships and jeopardize the power of our humanity. Maybe that should be referred to as “paying it backwards.”
Regardless of your beliefs, values or political views, we are all experiencing a time in our world where we seem to be teetering on a line. One side of that line represents a continuing evolution of our society, valuation of diversity, equity and justice for all. The other side of that line is a descent into hatred and havoc. Whatever side we find ourselves will have a tremendous impact on our lives and the lives of the people who follow us.
I apologize if this sounds gloomy. I think it’s important to understand darkness in order to appreciate the light.
For decades, it’s been relatively safe to sit back and watch. We’ve trusted the systems and structures that are supposed to maintain order, equity and fairness. But I don’t think we can do that right now. Right now, I believe that it is critical that we be deliberate about what we are spreading, and that whatever it is, it is driven by goodwill, trust and equity.