Posted by: Mike Willoughby | January 18, 2011

Going Viral (Part 1)

I have a head cold this week which has me a little off my game and out of sorts.  I spent the weekend around thousands of teenagers at the Winterfest youth convention in Arlington and one of them must have blessed me with a cold virus.  The person who infected me has no idea he or she shared their virus with me but I certainly get to deal with the impact of their decision to come to the convention with a cold.  Fortunately, I received many other positive blessings from Winterfest to more than offset this unwelcome gift from the weekend.

My virus infection got me thinking about the viral phenomenon in general.  Most recently, you hear the word “viral” used in context of YouTube videos that spontaneously take off and generate millions of hits.  The term is also used for email marketing campaigns that are a huge success and get forwarded to millions of friends and associates after the original recipients open the email.  Marketers and amateur videographers live for those rare opportunities for their work to “go viral.”

However, it’s not just cold bugs or digital entertainment pieces that go viral.  Human interactions can also be viral for better or for worse.  I have seen many instances where an otherwise good-natured person has an encounter with a bad-tempered friend, associate or family member and who then turns around and shares that bad experience with some other innocent bystander.  The negative ripple effects can be widespread with the original “infector” unaware of the wreckage left in their wake.

Fortunately, the opposite actions can be equally viral with widespread positive effect.  I don’t know if you have noticed a series of commercials on TV from Liberty Mutual Insurance that show one person doing a simple good deed that is noticed by bystanders who turn around and repeat a good deed for someone else resulting in a chain of good deeds.  I’ve also been the receiver and the provider of a “pay it forward” blessing where a stranger has paid for my toll or Starbucks coffee in the drive-through.  It turns out that kindness is very viral!

It’s Interesting how simple and seemingly insignificant the common cold virus is physiologically and yet the impact on our society in healthcare costs, lost productivity and human misery is so huge.  Similarly, the simple acts of kindness we do for each other that are so seemingly insignificant can have a huge impact on our relationships and cause positive ripple effects beyond our observation.  I wonder why we don’t practice those simple acts of kindness more often.

The Apostle Paul wrote a passage of scripture in Ephesians chapter 4 (verses 25-32) dealing with practical relationship advice that I love to read.  In verse 32, Paul writes quite simply,

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

These are words that are simple and straight to the point but at the same time so powerful.  There are other directions in this small verse that also tend to be viral and I think I may write about them over the next couple of weeks.  However this week, I think I’ll try to focus in spreading a little viral kindness around my friends.  I think they might appreciate that kind of virus much more than the cold virus I could also share with them!  Please join me in spreading a little kindness this week.

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Previous Intersections Articles

Well Equipped Snowflakes and DNA (Part 2) Snowflakes and DNA (Part 1)


  1. Hey Mike.

    Really like this topic…Random Acts of Kindness…and appreciate what you had to say. A few years ago, I was at a company sales meeting and the keynote guest speaker was Chris Garner, the guy the movie “Pursuit of Happyness” was made about. Random acts of kindness was the central theme of his presentation…he said he could not have made it through all the crises he encountered without acts of kindness from random people. He was captivating. I used points from his presentation to teach a lesson to the McDermott Rd. youth on the same topic. I really believe that if we all took more time to be on the “giving” end of random acts of kindness, this would be a much better world…and, we would be much closer to God. Thanks for sharing! Alan

    • Right on, Alan! Thanks for sharing and most importantly, thanks for sharing your life with our young men and women at McDermott.

  2. A good one Mike hope you’re feeling better. I think this is a virus I don’t mind contracting or spreading. Never thought there was such a thing as a good virus but it makes sense.

  3. Mike,

    Thank you for the article about the subject of kindness. I’m looking forward to the second installment. I’ll be watching for your post on Facebook. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Hi Mike,

    Enjoyed this article. It reminds me or us that it is just as easy to be kind
    as unkind and we feel so much better about ourselves when we smile
    and do a good deed for someone.

    Hope the virus doesn’t get you down completely. I think I am just about
    back to good health again…its no fun feeling poorly.

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