OK, so we are basically over-educated monkeys with complicated souls, who live in a big tribe, right? (Oh, wait — I just looked up the collective noun for a group of monkeys, and it's not "tribe"; it's "troop!" That's wonderful! I never knew that!) OK, so let me reword this: We are basically over-educated monkeys with complicated souls who live in a big TROOP. As such, we feed off each other's energy completely.

We are sensitive and responsive and sometimes quite jumpy creatures, us humans. Emotions run rampant through our various troops (our family troops, our work troops, our neighborhood troops, and our great global troop.) Emotions get passed around human troops faster than germs spread in a daycare center, which is to say — contagiously, constantly, messily.

Discord is particularly contagious. Two days ago in New York CIty, I watched a woman screaming (and I mean LOSING IT) at a bank teller, for no justifiable reason that I could determine. I watched as the other bank tellers — observing their colleague being terribly abused — cringed in reflected horror. I watched how one bank teller then immediately snapped at her OWN customer, in response to the heightened emotions in the room. I wondered if that unfairly insulted customer would now carry the sting of her unwarranted attack out into the world — maybe inflicting it, in return, on a member of her family or a loved one…who would then pass along the discord to yet another undeserving monkey/human…thus continuing the chain of suffering.

I don't know where the first strain of discord began that day (who was Patient Zero, in other words) but I do know that it was spreading before my eyes. And while I have been a discord vector in my life plenty of times, I damn sure wasn't going to let it pass forward through me that day. I've learned that only way to break the chain of discord is with a fast and serious burst of kindness, so I walked out of the bank and immediately gave 20 bucks to a homeless guy. The man grinned at me in a giant sunbeam smile and said, "You just bought me dinner, lady! And even better — I can go to the 99 cent store now and buy myself SIX PAIRS OF SOCKS!" (I guess six pairs of six = six bucks, leaving fourteen bucks for dinner? I don't know, but the man was really, really happy in that moment. And his happiness snapped that chain of discord before it could spread any further through me.)

Let's all try to break the chain of discord today somehow. Wherever you can. Let it stop at you. Turn it around. Spread some kindness germs around your home, your neighborhood, your world.

Let's all try to be nice monkeys, in other words, who help the other monkeys calm down. It's the best we can do.

All love,

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall