Cracking Humanity, One Egg at a Time

A week after the Paris attacks, November 2015

Tap tap, crack. Swoosh, plop.

I don't know how many eggs I've cracked in my life, but there seems to be a common rhythm to it.

Tap it once or twice against the side of any hard surface, crack apart the two halves, and let the soft innards drop gently into the dish. Then toss the shells into the compost, garbage or sink.

Today my egg-cracking took an interesting turn of events.

I was making a chocolate cake-in-a-mug, using the same recipe my boyfriend Damien and I had followed the night before. I'm not exactly sure why I took the whole egg over to the trash can to begin with, but I did.

Just before heading there, I had a hazy, quick flashback to a moment from last night's cake-in-a-mug-making session. When I'd picked up the first egg to crack it, he'd quickly let out an exasperated "Mais qu'est-ce que tu fais?" (Wait, what are you doing?), took the egg from me, and cracked it himself.

Damien says I was going to add it in the wrong order or something like that, but I was under the impression that he had thought my hands were too full, busy stirring the dry ingredients. Whatever the case, Damien had continued to comment about my near egg-cracking faux pas while taking over, and then stepped on our trash can's foot pedal and tossed in the empty shell himself.

So since I was baking alone today, when it came time to crack the egg, I had a split-second, subconscious doubt that I might screw it up—as had almost happened last night (from Damien's perspective). Thus apparently I thought that it would be a good idea to have my foot already pressed down on the trash can pedal before cracking the egg.

The whole 2-second scene went down like this:

I stepped my foot on the pedal to open the trash can lid. Since I was now in such proximity, I hit the egg twice on the side of the metal trash bin, covered by a liner, to crack it open. During that split second, my mind contemplated the cleanliness of breaking an egg on this part of a trash can, but I quickly decided what I was doing was okay—because it's just the shell that's making contact with the upper part of the trash bin.

I'd finished my "tap, tap," and next always comes the crack, swish…

And just as the yolk end egg whites fell to the bottom of the trash can, I realized the foolish thing I'd done. But it was too late.

There was no way to save that egg at this point, so I tossed the shell in right after it, shaking my head at the complete idiocy I'd just committed.

I just cracked an egg straight into the garbage.

I continued to shake my head, asking myself, "Wait a minute, did you really just do that?"

And this got me thinking—why?

How could I have done something so stupid?

I chalked it up to habit. A sort of muscle memory, have you.

Tap tap, crack. Swoosh, plop.

Twenty-six years of egg cracking has ingrained that pattern in my mind.

I continued to let my thoughts wander, as if I needed this tiny, brainless event to amount to something significant. So I asked myself: What other actions are so strongly a part of me, that I would follow them through as quickly as I had cracked that egg into the trash?

Better yet, what reactions to certain cues are part of human nature?

When there is terror, do we automatically react with rage and attack, or do we arm ourselves with love and kindness?

I have seen both reactions in the past few days.

Although I'm upset and angry—feeling the depth of this loss, its barbarity, and its evil—I know through my core that war is not the answer.

War will never be the answer.

Let's use words. We are fully capable of talking and communicating like civilized human beings of the modern world. There is certainly no shortage of communication tools, multilingual people, and technology.

It's not as simple as translating, I know very well. That's why the term "cross-cultural communication" exists. The more time I spend living abroad, the more examples I see of how cultures and languages really do affect a group's perception of a concept. But smiles, love, and laughs are universal—just like human struggle, pain, loss, and grief.

So let's also put love in the spotlight. We can use our skills, talents, and drive to create more love.

I can't single-handedly stop ISIS from terrorizing people, but I can create more love in the world. I can make a difference. We all can.

Most of us can clearly remember a time in our lives when someone else told us "you can" or "you can't."

Be someone who tells others they can. More compassion all around can encourage someone to bring to life the treasures inside them—whether you know it at the time or not. It’s a ripple effect.

Include others. Create supportive communities. Smile at your cashier and ask them how their day is going. Stand up for someone getting singled out. Lend a helping hand. Teach others what you've learned. Share your love and compassion.

You don't have to be the next Gandhi. But what if you unknowingly play a role in inspiring or sharing strength with "the next Gandhi"?

Every day, each of your interactions affects others' lives—shaping their beliefs, values, and perspectives—often in ways you'll never know.

Just as I will never know if my small egg-cracking faux pas, which eventually led to this very article, will change your actions.

But I'll continue to share my encouragement, with the belief that we can tip the balance of all interactions in the world to weigh on the positive side.

Tap tap, crack. Swoosh, plop.

Let's crack open the core of humanity and let the love flow.

Rebecca Rose Thering writes about her experiences abroad, cultural insights, and self-improvement pursuits at her personal site.