Ripples in the Water

Have you ever been so blessed to have the experience doing something and then seeing the ever widening results, like ripples in the water? A tiny stone thrown into the stagnant water causes a ripple effect.

Our daily deeds are like that. The tiniest little actions that we never stop to give a thought to have great ripple effects we will never know. The ripples go out and touch others, causing them to touch others, an on and on it goes.

My first true and significant realization of how my actions really affect others, and how, as my mother would tell me, “People are always watching.” was when I married my first husband at eighteen. I was painfully ignorant and immature. I lived in a very small town (2,000) and everyone knew everyone else’s business. I received a card in the mail. It said, “The merchants of Orleans have contributed to a Family Bible for you as a wedding gift.” Now I was not particularly religious at that point in my life, or even that spiritual. I was an ostrich. But I was deeply touched at this lovely gesture, and I filled out the card and mailed it in.

I received a beautiful white Bible with our name in it. I was not about to read it, haha! But I appreciated the love, intention, concern, and other motivations behind it. I felt gratitude. Ignorant child that I was, my mother had instilled in me the necessity of writing thank you notes.

I wrote thank you letters to every single merchant that contributed to that Bible.

As you can imagine, that town had a depressed economy. It was tough to find a job. Our best market was run by a real go-getter who only employed the most winning personalities-kids from my high school-the ones that made everyone smile. I was a reserved, quiet child. I did not exude that charm. But I had put in my application anyway, and of course was not called.

Soon after the thank you letter went out, I was hired.

Just think about that. That simple little Thank You note. Now think about this: how many people do you think sent them a Thank You note for their Bible?

This really does not fit in with my subject today, but it feels like an important prelude. It made me aware of how my simple actions could touch others. Here are some more things I have picked up over time that I am aching to share with you, about kindness and affecting others.

In my senior yearbook, a girl I barely noticed from my art class wrote, “To the most considerate person I ever met.” I cried, and never forgot it. Later I realized her last name was that of the family who was friends with my mother’s side of the family.

When I moved from Indianpolis, from a huge school with many cruel children, to Orleans, a tiny school (my class had only 50) I noticed a stunning difference in the personalities of the children. They were not hateful to each other. They did not mock. They had “decent” upbringings and mores.

I made friends with a neighbor girl and her friend who rode the bus with me but were still in the lower school, a few grades behind. I gave them nicknames. “Sarah Hare” and “Joy Robin”…(as you can see I have not outgrown my connection with the significance of avatars…) One day on the bus they passed me a note. I had not received many notes as a child, being reserved, a little odd, and not given to being cheerful or very outwardly friendly, so I was titillated with joy! I rushed into the house and opened it. It was, really, my friends, a love letter. It was covered with stickers and said, “We like our names you gave us!” and “We’re glad you’re our friend!” and other things. I had never in my life received anything like that. I sat and cried.

I was a home health aide in southern Indiana years later. One man, Mr. L, loved his aides and was grateful for them. His words belied this, but his body and expressions did not. His body and affect were stiff. I do not know his diagnosis. He was like a stone. I knew much was going inside that prison of a body he was trapped in….

One day he expressed his angst at his predicament. He wondered of what use he was. Why was he even alive? Useless, useless…he thought. My heart almost broke for him. Oh, Mr. L! I told him, with great emotion. I am sure my whole, normally reserved, manner exploded with expression. You have no idea what plans are made for you! You have no idea what effect your tiny little actions might have upon the world! One tiny little thing that you think nothing of may cause a ripple effect that will spread out and cause a major effect that will change the world!!

His stiff, stone like body collapsed inwards, in a heap, and he howled! “HUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNHHHHH!”

I shook with the knowledge of what I had effected in his spirit. I will never forget, in a million years.

Other beauties: when I was eight months pregnant in August in Indianapolis, living in hell, my (second) husband got in trouble and was separated from me. I was alone. No airconditioning. No stove. No food. No brain. We were insane.

The next door neighbor of our duplex came and knocked on the door. He lived with his children and their mother. He was a nice man.

He took me to his home. He led me upstairs in their air-conditioned bedroom and told me to take a nap. When I awoke, he served me dinner in bed. Not long after my mom and cousin came up with the station wagon and moved me out of there and took me back home to Orleans.

Bob on Tacoma in Indianapolis in 1989, God Bless your soul. I hope you are happy wherever you are.

In San Francisco I managed a bakery (now closed) in Pacific Heights. A customer began to come, who acted strangely. I believe what he suffered from was similar to Tourette’s. I had the funniest intuition/imagination that when others came around, he would worry that he would have a “spell” and the nervousness would bring it on. I would save my coffee bean grinding for his visits. I would keep a peripheral eye on him, and when it seemed right, would turn on the loud grinding machine, and no one could hear any odd sounds, and no one could be embarrassed for making them. I do not know if he knew I was trying to work with him. I hope he did and that that was why he kept coming back. For a while. Then I suspect the owner, not much of a Donkee, spied him one day and it was all she rote. 😦

I remember a lovely lady, a co-worker of sorts, that sadly left recently for Arizona recently. I guess I was not aware of the level of my affection for her. One day when calling her from one store to ‘clear’ before coming, she answered and I blurted out with uncharacteristic verbal enthusiasm, “Hello my sweet friend!”

Dead silence. My face burned.

When I got to the store, there was a piece of paper in my parts box. It had a childlike drawing of a smiley face -highlighters had been used to enhance it. My eyes began to sting a little.

I said without thinking, “Who did this?” and co-worker said, “I think she did.”

She was sitting in front of the computer. She would not look at me. We were stiff with our difficulty of expression and embarrassment of emotion. I said, “I have a special place at home I put things like this that people give me…letters and notes and things. It will go there.” She nodded stiffly with a smile. We both knew and understood what we meant to each other.

Isn’t it funny, the little things that happen that touch you so deeply?

The quality of your life can explode with intensity when you begin living to love. Just little acts can have such an impression, and you never know who is watching or being affected, and how they will go on and touch someone else.

I share these things that touch me so that I may touch you and that they will make a difference.

Live your life as though the people who matter to you are watching.

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4 Comments

  1. Kafleen…being a quiet child (long ago!) I was always aware of the butterfly effect of people’s words. My parents fought a LOT and, as the eldest child-but still a child myself, I took it upon myself to be the Protector of my younger siblings. And I swore, with every fiber of my being, that I would never, ever say mean or cruel things to anyone, no matter how badly I was hurt. I remember how hollow the words “i am sorry” felt …..if someone hadn’t meant to hurt, they wouldn’t have said something horrible to start with. Why pretend you can just take it all back. So, I always remember the short little poem that goes “Curse, or cry, or call it unfair-but be thankful to the grave that in this hurt you’re the one who received, and not the one who gave”
    Have a wonderful day! COL

    Dear COL,
    Thank you so much for that beautiful poem. That sums up so exactly what I feel. It is a curse to carry the burden of guilt…and so much easier to forgive. I am working on a little project regarding the subject of healing and forgiving by using healing fantasies. Thank you for your feedback. Kathleen

  2. Kafleen…’.ripples in the water’.I like that.The ever widening circle that occurs just by a thought,a deed,a word.
    There are those that would just sink,but some,that have this marvellous effect on others and have been embraced by these ripples,and send the ripples further.
    I hope,that in my journey through life,that I have made some ripples.I know that I have been touched by some.
    Thankyou Kafleen,for your words of wisdom and encouragement.
    Claire-tidmum

    Kathleen Responds: Hi tidmum! I’m so glad you came by! It’s exciting to me each time an ICHC person comes in and comments for the first time. Thanks for your feedback!

  3. Your post today made me think of this. I wrote it in response to a scholarship questionaire, and I really believe it. Trust me, you are one of the people who changes the world.

    I am going to change the world by changing myself. Starting every morning, I am going to be nicer. Too many times in life my temper and impatience get the better of me. I wake up late so I snap at my husband. I drive impatiently. I start to feel I cannot stand my coworkers and everything I encounter bites at my temper starting a cascade effect which continues through the day. I will change the world one decision at a time, when I consciously choose to control myself, to be kinder, nicer, sweeter, better to work with. I know there will be setbacks. No one has perfect control, but it never hurts to be polite, to hold your breath for a few seconds longer and think about what you say and how you say it. Everything I do affects the people around me. Every choice I make influences the happiness of who I meet. I lose nothing by giving up that piece of myself that is quickest to anger. Every harsh word breaks connections. Every kind one repairs them. If I can be kinder to those people I deal with, they will be kinder in turn and perhaps kindness will spread like an epidemic all across the world, crossing social and economic barriers, to make everyone happier and more at peace with themselves and their neighbors.

    Kathleen responds: GOOD LORD. My eyeballs are popping out and I am having chills over and over. What a powerful message. Bless your heart! Thank you for your email. If you read my new post I just finished, you’ll see I have emails to answer, including yours! Your picture was a wonderful delight! Donkey loves you!!!! ❤

  4. “Ripples in the Water.” I like that term a LOT. I love this whole post — the end (about the happy-face drawing) brought tears to my eyes. Although I’ve never “met” you, I sense that you are one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I “know.” Your warmth oozes from your blog entries and from your (often silly) ICHC posts. You are one of the people who welcomed me with open arms into the ICHC community — I thank you (again) for that.

    You are SOOO right about little things we do affecting people in ways we could never imagine. The simplest acts of kindness resonate in people, hopefully inspiring them to be kind to others.

    Donkey – you inspire me to be kind to others (not that I really “needed” more inspiration – but whatever) & you are loved. =)


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