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Growing Something Beautiful

Several years ago I read about a biofeedback experiment done with some college students. They were connected to a battery of machines in order to measure their biological responses to different video clips.

The first group was shown beautiful vacation spots: the white sand of pristine beaches, cottages on the marsh, cabins in the Smokey Mountains. It was noted that the viewers’ stress levels dropped, their pulses slowed, their muscles relaxed.

A second group was shown a video of the staff and volunteers in a hospital that cared for terminally ill patients. The average stay in this hospital was 26 days, and the patients left only when they died. The students were visibly moved by the caring of the volunteers and staff. The machines registered that, biologically, their responses were much the same as with the first video. Their stress seemed to drain as they saw people with needs much greater than theirs and as they saw one human caring for another.

The one difference the researchers noted was that endorphins, a chemical cousin to morphine, were present in the second group at a much higher level than the first. Simply watching other people serving gave the viewers a natural high.

I am convinced that our souls shrink when we spend all of our time, energy, and effort on ourselves. That which is beautiful in us withers and dies. If we are willing to die to self, however, something beautiful begins to grow.

Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and is buried it abides alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.”


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Rev. Michael Piazza

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