This I Believe

George - East Berlin, Pennsylvania
Entered on September 6, 2007
Age Group: 65+
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

This I Believe.

I believe Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion that most high school students learned in their Physics classes should be the First Law of Government and Charity.

If you took physics you can repeat it by heart. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

About 25 years ago I was in the pressroom of the first-ever meeting of key scientific and government officials from the US and the Soviet Union involved in the unthinkable. They were discussing the consequences of nuclear war. This was serious stuff.

Then out of blue a cheerful looking fellow wandered out of the meeting. Someone asked him, “What’s the Headline?” He answered, “They actually reached an agreement.”

Cloudy eyes lit up like searchlights during the London Blitz. He continued, “They’ve agreed that the laws of physics do not respect political boundaries.”

Because Newton’s Law, covers everything and everyone on the map, I believe that all of us … journalists, political junkies, donors to campaigns … as well as contributors to charities, schools, hospitals and any cause-of-the-moment … are asking the wrong questions.

Certainly not in a religious sense, but in a practical day-to-day sense, I believe we all, without thinking, are playing God and not even knowing it.

It probably is human nature to think we expect the actions of governments and charities to improve or even save the lives of our fellow human beings.

Because old Sir Isaac was right, that each action has an equal and opposite reaction, we should be asking our leaders and ourselves, “Who are we hurting and who may we actually be killing when we act in good faith?”

Of course, we have to set priorities and, of course, it is an imperfect world.

But, think about it. For every dollar that goes to save a child suffering after an Asian earthquake, there probably will be a dollar less to save starving a child in Africa. For every Congressman’s earmark for a bridge to nowhere, there will be less money for fixing a broken bridge to somewhere. For every government dollar invested in research for a Diabetes cure, there is likely to be one less dollar to seek a cure for an equally debilitating and treacherous disease.

For every dollar spent for the missing 90,000 military rifles in Iraq, there is one dollar less … well you get the idea.

The optimist in me shouts out, “If we can force politicians, governments, charities and ourselves, to consider the real consequences of actions … those actions will be more rationale, not just emotional.”

The pessimist in me is screaming just as loud, “Don’t forget the other universal law … that no good deed will go unpunished.”

Nonetheless, I do believe that we must move ahead.

That there are better priorities and lesser priorities and even evil priorities.

And, remembering Newton’s Law, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, we can make the world better … maybe not great … but better.