Monday, December 8, 2014

A Conspiracy of Love


Almost a century ago, two young medical school graduates, along with their doctor father, tried an important experiment. They built a small sanitarium on a farm outside Topeka, Kansas (USA). This was a time when the "rest cure" was in vogue as a treatment for psychiatric disorders as well as for a few physical ailments. Oftentimes patients were sent to impersonal institutions where they might remain their entire lives.  

The doctors were Charles Menninger and his sons Karl and William. The Menningers had a different idea. Their sanitarium would not be impersonal. They were determined to create a loving, family atmosphere among their patients and staff. Their vision was to grow a community of doctors, nurses and support staff that would cooperate to heal patients; a place where a patient’s mental health would be as important as her physical health.

To this end, nurses were given special training and were told, "Let each person know how much you value them. Shower these people with love." Rather than being sent to a place where they were warehoused for life, many of the patients received more love and kindness at the Menninger Sanitarium than they had ever experienced before.

The treatment worked - spectacularly. The experiment was a resounding success and the Menninger's revolutionary approach to healing and their radical (for that daytime) methods became world famous.

Karl Menninger later wrote numerous books and became a leading figure in American psychiatry. "Love cures people,” Menninger wrote, “both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” His work demonstrated just how true that statement is.

Essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie said, “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” I'm attracted to that phrase... conspiracy of love. For many people around the world, Christmas is such a season. This time of year is an annual celebration where folks agree to put aside destructive differences and toxic behavior and allow love to take center stage. When that happens, it can be a beautiful thing. And even more beautiful if the season can truly engage the whole world in such a conspiracy.

I would like to be part of the plot. And not only for a season. If enough of us join together, the movement will become an irresistible and unstoppable force for good.

Spiritual writer Emmett Fox put it like this:


There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer.
No disease that enough love will not heal.
No door that enough love will not open.
No gulf that enough love will not bridge.
No wall that enough love will not throw down.
No sin that enough love will not redeem.

What could happen if you let each person in your life know how much you value them? What might happen if you were to, as Menninger says, shower everyone with love? And not just friends and family, though they may need to hear it from you. But everyone? Especially those hardest to love?

Does it sound unrealistic? Maybe it is. But remember, love cures people. And it can cure a world.

The only real question is, will you join the conspiracy?


-- Steve Goodier


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