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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Ripple Effect

“Do not be too timid or squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

One day I watched a seagull soaring above a nearby bay. The bird glided high and swooped downward as it dropped something into the still, glistening water. There was a large splash as the water swallowed the object. Ripples spread out in an ever-widening circle. A single splash had become the center of a disturbance that reached farther and farther outward.

After a moment, nothing remained at the point of impact but calm glassiness. It appeared as if nothing had happened there, as if nothing had disturbed the tranquility.

But something did happen. The ripples caused by the object landing in the water continued to radiate outward in larger and larger circles, one after the other, ruffling the water’s surface as they spread out in every direction.

This image reminded me of our potential as leaders and protagonists of growth. At times we seem to have little impact. We may feel that we have somehow missed the mark and are not having the desired effect on those we’re trying to reach. We may believe that our attempts to create change and make a difference have failed -- almost as if they’d been swallowed up and disappeared. The only reaction seems to be silent stillness with no discernible impact.

At times like this, we must keep in mind that, from our vantage point, we cannot always see the ripples emanating from our acts. The ultimate effect we have on others, what happens well after we make our initial “splash,” is beyond our comprehension. Our efforts and our deeds generate ripples that multiply themselves and continue outward long after we have extended ourselves.
-- Deborah Avery