That’s the phrase that’s been weighing on my mind this past week.
In recent days, two horrific acts of violence were beamed into our homes courtesy of the national media machine: first, the on-air murder of television reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward in Virginia; then, the cold-blooded assassination of Sheriff Deputy Darren Goforth near Houston, Texas.
And of course, for anyone who has been paying attention, it’s obvious that these are just the very small tip of a very large iceberg of violent crime in this nation. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 5,359,570 violent crimes were committed last year; that’s 14,683 per day or one every six seconds.
But here’s the thing that seems to be ignored:
In the vast majority of cases, people don’t become violent in a vacuum. More often than not, violence arises in reaction to something—or more typically a long series of “somethings.” Like seeds planted in a long-forgotten garden, these “somethings” lay dormant just waiting to sprout:
— Seeds of marginalization from a discriminatory comment.
— Seeds of indifference from an apathetic ear.
— Seeds of hatred from a mean-spirited act.
When seeds such as these are planted day after day, it can be no surprise what kind of fruit is borne from the garden that is our culture.
Of course, none of this is intended in any way to excuse these heinous acts, and it’s a fact that there will always be persons with mental illness and other problems that beget violence no matter what kinds of seeds are planted in our world.
With that said however, if we are authentically interested in bringing senseless violence to an end, at the very least, we need to attempt understand how and why these kinds of acts arise. To dismiss every perpetrator of violence as simply “criminal” or “crazy” or worse, is tantamount to resigning ourselves to more of the same.
So what does this have to do with any of us? In a word, everything.
Back to my phrase: “What if…”
Specifically: What if we could all begin sowing different kinds of seeds? What might it mean for our world at large?
— What if we met strangers with smiles instead of suspicion?
— What if we warmly welcomed diversity rather than fearfully discriminating against it?
— What if we actively sought to recognize the best aspects of everyone we met instead of myopically focusing on failings and foibles?
When seeds such as these are planted day after day, a different kind of cultural garden can emerge: one steeped in kindness and warmth and nourishment.
Now, I don’t believe any of us are naïve enough to think this would entirely solve the problem of violence in our culture, but a wide-spread, sustained effort to plant seeds of kindness at every turn simply cannot fail to make our world at least a little bit better.
And better is, well, better.
As you may now have guessed, this idea was the inspiration for our Pay-It-Forward BetterBox. But whether you are a BetterBox member or not, we all can begin to sow the kinds of seeds that will help grow the kind of world we want to live in.
I, for one, am willing to try. I hope you’ll join me.
About the Author
Eric Walrabenstein is a nationally-recognized speaker, teacher, and author and is one of the most sought-after authorities on the application of yogic technology for self healing and empowerment in the nation. As the founder of one of Arizona’s largest yoga centers, and Arizona's first 500-hour Master-Level Yoga Teacher Training Program, Eric has long been dedicated to making ancient wisdom and techniques practical and relevant for people from all walks of life. In addition to his work in his wellness center in Phoenix, Arizona, he is the creator of BOOTSTRAP, a yoga-based program to help troops and veterans heal from post traumatic stress as well as BetterBox, a subscription box revolutionizing the self-improvement industry. An ordained Yogacharya (preceptor of yoga), Eric is currently finishing a book on the Science of Happiness.