I sometimes wonder if the fruits I’ve born in my life have any affect on the footprint of time. What can I say, its hard to live in my head. Yet, every once in awhile, some person, or incident reminds me that I am an influence, even unwittingly most of the time. So I often act with caution when I elicit a remark or response and try and think of what the future ripples of that conversation or action might be. I also feel the pain of watching the ripples move outward from others and how it impacts the day to day, often times in a negative way. Like many, I am so alarmed by the ripples of hatred out in the world. When hatred, outrage, anger, fear and a whole host of negative waves ripple outward, there is bound to be repercussions by creating additional ripples outward from any and all they bump into. I cling to the hope that love, justice, hope and faith are just as powerful ripples outward that will influence the world as well.
I think its important to take stock in what kind of ripples I let into my life. Those that effect all of us are impossible to avoid. I can, however, choose how I respond to them. I try and make a conscious effort to respond to a negative ripple with a positive one, to cancel out the effect it can have on me. It may be extending a kindness, even outward to someone who had nothing to do with the negativity that passed my way, and sometimes it looks more like an exorcism, like speaking truth to a powerful lie, and stand like a storm in its pathway (that’s the Irish in me), and accept the consequences. Always, at the end of my day when I take stock on what affect I’ve put out into the world. I focus on what ripples influenced my behavior and how successfully I utilized them to change the world for better. Of course some days are better than others, but I have learned to never dismiss the small ripples of good I produce outward; they too, I’ve learned in hindsight, have future impacts on people.
So cancel the negative ripples, don’t let them continue outward, focus on love, hope, justice, faith etc, and lets move the world to a better place.
None of us share the exact same gifts, nor will we produce the same fruits. What is necessary to cultivate and sustain them may be different too. To take it one step further, we are not always aware of the impact of fruit shared. Confused? Let me share a story. While a teacher at the Academy of Holy Angels, I had the benefit of working with the theater department (cheers to Gregg Sawyer) to create a one-act play about the homeless. Because I was in campus ministry at the time, I coordinated experiences about the homeless with students who were writing the play. Working with a homeless shelter in downtown Minneapolis, many of our students got the opportunity to volunteer and gain some insight into the plight of the homeless. On one particular evening when I was volunteering with some students, I had a somewhat confrontational interaction with a woman who didn’t like that we were there “spying” on them. I continued the conversation with her for quite awhile, and learned many things about her struggles. She was an educated woman who struggled with mental illness and alcohol. I don’t really remember the specifics of the conversation, but I think we parted on good terms having listened to one another.
Over a decade later, in my small little town 60 miles away, we had a patient scheduled that my husband had known from high school who was down on his luck and had lived in Mexico and had struggled with drugs there. He was in rough shape and needed a chiropractor desperately. He arrived for his appointment, and his companion was the woman I had met in the shelter all those years ago. I knew who she was right away, ( I never forget a face), and I could tell by the look on her face that she recognized me too, because she complimented me on my eyes, just like she had done in the shelter. Neither of us brought it up, but she paid for his visit and the one the following day. She wanted to help her friend, she said. She had at one time fallen on hard times, and she wanted to be able to give back, she said. I smiled and said something about the ripple effect. She smiled, and I never saw them again. Was it divine providence? Cause, seriously, what are the odds of that happening? What lesson did I learn? Perhaps we had influenced each other in a simple but powerful way, and God threw us together for a moment to illustrate that we should always be ready and willing to put ourselves out there, extend a hand or a word because we may never know the impact it has on someone’s life.
What would have happened if I had gotten all defensive and just blown her off? I wondered about that a lot. Bearing fruit doesn’t have to be magnanimous to be miraculous. That can’t be said enough. The alternative is true as well. The one ingredient that I know is essential regardless of the size or breadth of the fruit is kindness. I remember that woman often as my encouragement to never underestimate a simple gesture…and I hope she remembers me too.