This is a picture that could launch a thousand good deeds... if we let it! My friend Darin Raney was at a Walmart in Missouri the other day. He passed by the above ruby red landscape and remembered that in his pocket he had a small green tomato that a friend had thrown at him earlier that day to test his lightning fast reflexes. He caught it and silently pocketed his contest winnings.
Later that day his director/photographer's eye caught a glimpse of the above bin of red tomatoes, and Raney was inspired to pull the green jewel from his pocket and do a little "reverse-shoplifting," as our writer friend Claudia Reilly called it, to create a slightly different tomato tableau.
In reaction to the photo, our Facebook conversation quickly turned to pondering a world where reverse-shoplifting was more the norm than thievery. This could obviously cause as much of a stir as regular old shoplifting, but it's fun to ponder the idea of store managers scratching their heads at quarter's end when inventory numbers are wildly skewed in the wrong direction.
The other day at my local small town gym I heard two girlfriends chatting about a family they know that leaves a lovely high end patio set in their front yard. Everyone -- except that family, of course -- has been concerned that, one day, it will be carted away in the middle of the night by thieves. We are incredibly lucky to live in a town where thefts like this are not the norm, where you actually can trust that nice things will remain in place. But, the juxtaposition of these two conversations made me think how fun it would be to start a ring of artful reverse-thieves. How fun would it be if people awoke in the morning to an additional perfectly placed gnome or pink flamingo in their front yard?
For many years I studied with Gurumayi, the guru of Siddha Yoga Meditation. One day when she was asked to help a woman who was struggling with a decision, Gurumayi offered this guidance: "It is either the path of love or the path of fear. Choose love." That bit of wisdom has helped me many times since, even though it hasn't always been easy to extricate all the strings of emotional attachment from every jumbled decision-making mess. Once I do unravel it all, though, it's usually pretty clear which choice is on the path of love and which is on the path of fear.
Ebola and Isis are filling our news feeds and imaginations with fear on a daily basis. Many spiritual leaders are reaching out to their communities begging them to steer clear of its trappings. It's hard to not fall down the slippery slope of anxiety into a giant mud bath of terror if you listen to all the doomsayers. For some this fear-inducing news is a new addictive substance on the market.
One excellent way to cure a bad habit, though, is to give your monkey mind another jungle vine to grab. Reverse-theft sounds like an excellent option to me. In this troubled landscape we are all trying to navigate, choosing to do something fun or lovely for someone else can certainly take the fear down at least a few notches, and steer you in the far better direction of love.
One case in point is this extraordinary husband who channeled his fear of his wife's cancer diagnosis into a creative way to make her, and other patients like her, laugh. Any man who can don nothing but a pink tutu and dance around to make his wife smile is definitely firmly entrenched in the path of love.