Ripples in a Pond
"When we’re kind we inspire others to be kind, and it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends – to three degrees of separation."
~ David R. Hamilton, PhD
"Sometimes—especially in the face of big issues with no easy solutions—it’s easy to forget that every kindness has a ripple, and even if we can’t solve the problem, we can alleviate the suffering or lighten the load for one person."
~ Donna Cameron
I have always loved watching ripples on a pond and have been long fascinated by their implications. That one little action like dropping a small stone into a big (or small) body of water might cause ripples far beyond what we can see, possibly having effects that we cannot see.
And how the ripples we cause with our single stone might impact folx on the receiving end in simple ways. One day as I was entering a store I held the door open for someone who I could easily see thought I had rushed ahead in order to scramble through the door before her. But when she saw that I’d actually moved forward to hold the door open, her face lit up in a beautiful smile and there was a wonderful exchange of energy between us. I hope the rest of her day was as good as that moment.
The kindness of others towards me fills my cup with their goodwill and inspires me to share likewise with someone else. And there are times when I am a witness to the kindness of others toward someone else and it inspires me to be a little bit better in the world myself. These are ripples of kindness, extending out to (at least) three degrees of separation.
But what is even more significant is how our kindness toward one person might relieve some of the suffering and heartache in the world. As I have become more greatly involved in justice and human rights work of all kinds, I am ever more conscious of suffering all over the planet, the suffering of human beings, the suffering of beings in nature, and of the planet itself.
It is so overwhelming to think of it all at once, especially when those with power to call into action massive change for the betterment of all seem to prefer a willful and ruthless ignorance, or to only gesture, or make moves that amount to shaking a flimsy stick at it all.
What generally helps me in this is the knowledge that the rest of us can do one good thing right where we are. The inner assurance and faith I have that each of our singular acts can be as small stones of kindness dropped into the huge pond of the collective suffering of the earth and its beings and will ripple out to impact others. That perhaps something we might say or do or the resources we offer are indeed saving a life in ways we might not understand or imagine. Or that we are, with clear intention, acting to cause systemic change.
None of us can do it all and some things really do seem intractable, so embedded in our cultures and ways of being as they are. How about we embrace our evolution rather than causing extinction? And as the slow painstaking process of evolution does its work, if we give our focus to whatever it is that has landed right here before each of us, then we’ve got plenty to do and would have done plenty. One small stone at a time rippling in the huge pond of the world.
What’s Sustaining Me
Reading: Widening the Circle of Concern: Report of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change. How long-term structural and systemic change regarding racism can occur within Unitarian Universalism.
Watching: The Voice. Makes me smile, laugh, and even cry from time to time. A simple joyful pleasure.
Listening to: Inspiration, by Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Beautiful debut album by the gifted cellist who played at the 2018 British royal wedding. Yes, I love cello music.
Learning from: Memories of my dog Bear, who died in February. During our walks, he taught me to stop, close my eyes, put my nose in the air and breathe and listen. To be present.
Giving me joy: The impossibly wild and unreal-looking pumpkins that were in front of the Sprouts grocery store on Hwy 54 in Durham. Like magical pumpkins with warts from a folktale.