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by Joan Bachman

A clarifying description of the sermon reading from Luke 6: 27-38 on Sunday was stated as The Law of the Echo, i.e., what I send will return to me. If I smile at someone, there is a good chance I’ll get a smile in return. If I growl at someone, there is a good chance our interactions for the rest of the day will be less than productive. As I give, so shall I receive.

Then on Tuesday I attended a workshop on racial justice. While the heart of the message was different, the general concept of the Law of the Echo holds true: if I trust, I will be trusted; if I disrespect, I will be disrespected. My input to a relationship influences the end result.

And Wednesday, a news article by a community member reminds me that many of us came from small rural communities where there was not one person of color so racial prejudice was not an issue. However, there was a division between Lutherans and Catholics - and I remember that clearly. The “training” for and inclination to judgement and prejudice exists at many levels and begins very early in life.

Prejudice: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

Over life’s course of many years, I worked with and befriended people with belief systems and skin color different from mine. I am active in the recovery community. I am mentoring (“grandmothering”) a young man soon to be released from parole from the state prison system. These relationships have offered more than a few opportunities for misunderstanding and disagreement on a variety of topics and actions. Some have been resolved, some not.

When I LISTEN, I discover the differences in backgrounds and situations, usually over several or many generations. Those differences may include family structure, religious and cultural beliefs and practices, economic stability, government, and access to education and transportation. Unless or until we are willing to acknowledge those basic differences, we will have difficulty reaching mutual goals. Particularly if I am in a stronger position, I have responsibility to initiate the acknowledgement and understanding of the differences. If I refuse fair treatment to someone because they are different from me, my own status is diminished.

An internet search for the opposite of “prejudice” lists justice, tolerance, impartiality, and indifference. I don’t believe the opposite of prejudice is adoption of the “other” or even necessarily expecting acceptance, but rather making the effort to recognize differences and work through them for mutual benefit. Prejudice can be either active or passive, neither of which is advantageous to anyone. Not all opposites are advantageous either.

In February, I observed a horticultural phenomenon. Last fall, I placed a poinsettia plant and an oxalis plant together in each of 2 different locations in the house. The oxalis plants deteriorated gradually from October through mid-February, the poinsettias remained healthy. I finally traded places for the plants so the oxalis were together and the poinsettias together. In less than a week,
the oxalis plants began to look healthy and are now beautiful and perky. Obvious to me that the two plant variations are not mutually compatible. While the poinsettias showed no effect from the proximity, the oxalis literally blossomed when removed from the toxic situation. Do the poinsettias exude negativity? – at least toward the oxalis? I don’t know………

It seems the plants taught me something. I prefer to think it was to recognize that a negative environment prevents realization of fulfillment and that a positive outside action can change that. God gave me – and you - the ability to observe, evaluate, and act. I saw something that seemed to need attention, took action, and was rewarded. The Law of the Echo! How much more meaningful when I apply this lesson in the broader context of the neighborhood.

About the Author

Joan Bachman

Joan Bachman is a Registered Nurse, Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, Registered Health Information Technician, and Faith Community Nurse. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Joan has experience as a Nurse, Administrator, Developer, Trainer, Grant Writer, and served as Administrator of SD State Survey Agency. She has consulted with health care facilities and nonprofit organizations and presented leadership training. Joan is the author of Guidebook for Assisted Living Facilities and Senior Service Providers and Guidebook for Physician Services in the Nursing Facility, and she has published in professional journals.


Vicki Schmidt

Good reflection on racism, and on the Law of the Echo from last Sunday’s sermon. It’s a good rule of thumb, isn’t it.

Sharon Weber

Nicely said Jane! Understanding diversity in all it's forms is essential to healthy relationships and communities.

Laura Redoutey

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this with me. It is a very cold morning and I am home sick- just a cold that I don’t want to share with NHA. Just read your note to Bill (Welch). Great start to the day! Stay Warm.

Beth Roder

This is a very interesting analogy and leaves me with thoughts to ponder. I never heard of "The Law of the Echo". This makes good sense. Thanks for sharing !

Suzi Kopec

Very thoughtful! Thank you for posting. I am in Helena, Montana, and looking forward to the temperature getting above zero. Today, there is beautiful sunshine which improves my attitude even if it's not providing much warmth.

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