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Our Bodies: Give the Gift of Moral

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Day after day we are surrounded by the demons of evil, hypocrisy, racism and betrayal. It’s hard to escape the Bush rhetoric of war and tough talk.

We are bombarded with threatening and negative messages in our schools and homes. Our newspapers, televisions and music CD’s are filled with hate and disharmony. We are a people reeling from the Enron disaster, sex abuse in our churches and now the racially charged remarks of Senator Trent Lott; this holiday season many of us are wondering, what happened to love, connection and community?
Study after study has shown that people who spread what Nelson Mandela calls “moral beauty,” tend to live longer, happier lives and have fewer health problems. Practicing the virtues of goodness, kindness, compassion and forgiveness not only makes us better people but helps reduce the stress and chaos in our lives. Moral beauty is contagious and costs nothing. It doesn’t take extraordinary heroics to trigger it. Simple human kindness -- a teen stopping to help an elderly woman cross the street, collecting toys for homeless children, creating a community stop smoking project -- can be enough to open our hearts and inspire us to help others. Many patients complain of feeling hopelessly stressed out. They search endlessly for a pill, potion or magic bullet. Relief is often as simple as changing your attitude.
Mandela is a powerful example of moral beauty because he exemplifies forgiveness, vision and generosity. To have spent most of his life in prison, then his first words before his release were, “I forgive my enemies,” gives me chills. Seeing the firefighters and rescue workers on 9/11 embody courage and heroism promotes the healing properties of goodness.
Consider the true story of two patients, both of whom were facing death if they didn’t have open-heart surgery. The first patient, a New York firefighter, whose son was mentally retarded, was eager to have the surgery. The man found bliss in his good deeds and commitment to a child many saw as a burden. The second patient said he didn’t really care if he had the surgery as his son had been killed in the 9/11 tragedy. While his feelings of loss were completely understandable his state of mind rendered him less likely to make it through the procedure alive. As it turned out, when the man learned that the first patient, had suffered a heart attack while rescuing two children from the World Trade Center on September 11, he had an epiphany: He suddenly was able to reflect on the honor of having had 16 years of life with a healthy child, and realized the preciousness of all the other things he had to live for. The surgery was successful for both patients.
No treatment or pill can ease the stress of life as to give to someone else from one’s store of goodness. Such wealth is spiritually accumulative. And its dividends are never passed, but endlessly grow greater. These are tougher times; the ground to harvest the seeds we plant may be rockier. But we can replant goodness in our communities if we agitate and if we determine, finally, that the negotiation of our morality is never fair game.
Happy Kwanzaa! May your holiday be one of moral beauty and prosperity.

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