An act of hate is something like an earthquake.
An earthquake strikes suddenly, lasts a minute or so, leaves devastation in its wake. It draws the attention of everyone near enough to feel it. It destroys and kills on a massive scale, leaves the survivors scarred in body and mind, shocks even those who weren’t close enough to be directly affected. In the time it takes to play a down of football or run a home run in baseball, an earthquake changes the lives of hundreds, or thousands, or millions irrevocably.
We can replace earthquake in the paragraph above with terrorist attack or mass shooting, expand the times from a minute to an hour or a day, and the words will still be true. Hate and terror ravage us as surely and as deeply as any natural disaster. And like natural disasters, they demand our attention. Our survival-oriented brains find them impossible to ignore, even if we learn of them from the other side of the world.
Over time, earthquakes thrust up mountains and move the very crust of the earth from one place to another.
But even mountains can’t resist the drip of water.
It’s water, not earthquakes, that formed the Grand Canyon. It’s water, not earthquakes, that makes sandy beaches out of rocky shores. It’s water, not earthquakes, that creates spectacular underground spaces like Carlsbad Caverns.
But water doesn’t work the way earthquakes do. Yes, sometimes it overwhelms an entire region with a flood or storm or tsunami, does comparable devastation in the space of days or weeks. But most of the time, it shapes the earth drip by drip. A stream carves a channel that becomes a river that wears down mountains; a glacier carves a valley where fruit or grain will one day grow; water seeping slowly through rock carves and builds spectacular caverns. Slowly, irresistibly, over thousands or millions of years, water shapes the world around us even more profoundly than earthquakes do.
And if hate works on us like an earthquake, love is much more like water, doing its work one drop at a time over years and centuries. Where an act of hate can be huge and devastating, an act of love is small, sometimes unnoticeable in the noise of life. Where one person’s act of hate can impact thousands, an act of love is almost always one person impacting one other.
And the right act of love at the right moment can be as life-changing as any act of hate. Except where hate only destroys, love can build. Love alone can leave us better than it found us. Hate seeks to split us apart, pit us against each other; love brings us together, inspires us to lift each other up, to do more than any of us could on our own.
I can’t say what the world will look like in a year. The next few months may bring an explosion of hate that makes love hard to see. But the slow drip of love, the work of connecting with each other, will not stop. Drip by drip, touch by touch, it will build up what hate knocks down.
I choose the slower path. I choose to build. What will you choose?