This snowball effect really got me thinking. We've all heard stories about undesirable mob behavior, where one person begins to act out in violent or destructive fashion and pretty soon others jump on the bandwagon. Vandalism after a World Series victory might be one example of this, as would the Rodney King attack in Los Angeles a few years ago. There is plenty of evidence to show that bad behavior in one person sort of creates a "safe place" for bad behavior in another, and I have often seen that subject discussed on television and in the press.
Far less frequent is any discussion about the upside of group dynamics: "desirable" mob behavior. (Don't you love the concept of a benevolent mob?) It is heartening to note that our good actions can steer others in a positive direction too, even when it is not something they, as individuals, would normally do. For example, if I let an elderly or pregnant woman with a full shopping cart go ahead of me in line, is it not more likely that the person in front of me will do the same?...and maybe even the person in front of her? I like the idea that one person's kindness creates a breeding ground for group kindness.
Going to the head of the line when you are tired and uncomfortable may seem like a small thing, but there are wider applications. What about the people on Flight 93 that rushed the cockpit and tried to overcome the terrorists? We don't know for sure who took the first step, perhaps Mark Bingham, but others in the group rose to the occasion. During the Holocaust, when the Krepec family in Poland risked their lives to hide 30 Jewish citizens in their home, the people of their town could have protected themselves and their loved ones by reporting them. Instead, they got on board, putting their own futures on the line by supporting the Krepecs with meals, relief, and most of all, silence.
You've heard the saying, paraphrased from Mahatma Gandhi, to "Be the change you want to see in the world." More specifically, maybe we need to "Be the goodness we want to see in the world." One thing's for certain, our kind acts are more powerful than we know. Are we ready to lead the way?