Ripple Effects

Ripple Effects

The ringing phone jarred me awake. I was surprised there was daylight pouring through the window. When had I fallen asleep? Last I remembered, I was trying to stay up all night studying. As I reached for the phone, I glanced at the clock. My stomach instantly clenched with fear. I was supposed to be in class taking a final exam.

I answered the phone sheepishly, trying to sound awake. A friendly voice greeted me with a soft-spoken hello. It was my philosophy professor. He said he was calling to check in on me because I usually never missed class.  He wasn’t angry? I wasn’t in trouble? He wasn’t informing me I’d failed?

In my bleary-eyed exhaustion, it took me a minute to soak it all in.  He just wanted to be sure I was okay.

That Fall semester, way back when, I had returned to college after being out of school for several months. Returning to college was an effort to get my life back on track despite all the struggle and turmoil still going on inside. I wasn’t sure what I was searching for or where I really belonged.

For me on that particular morning and in the larger picture of my life, the energy carried in the simple gesture of that phone call had such resounding effects. I have no idea what grade I got in the class. I couldn’t tell you much about the philosophical theories we studied. I can’t remember ever crossing paths again with the instructor. What has vividly stayed with me all these years is the gift of the caring he shared.

Last summer, I found out my philosophy professor was retiring from the college. I wrote him a note to share the story of that day long-ago, realizing it was rather unlikely he remembered me or the circumstances or even making the check-in call. Or that he had any inkling of how his expression of caring had so deeply touched my heart.

I wanted to share my appreciation. I wanted him to know the ripple effects of his kindness. Resonating for over thirty years.

And he wrote me back, delighted to reconnect.  He shared some stories about the passages in his life and offered warm blessings my work in the world.

Once set in motion, the ripple effects of kindness flow on and on and on.

In the everyday moments of everyday life – wherever we live and whatever we do – there are boundless opportunities to reach out and connect with genuine kindness and generous care.

It is never too late to share gratitude with someone who has touched our lives.

4 Responses to Ripple Effects

  1. A graceful synchronicity! I just listened to a story on NPR about how, after her husband’s assassination, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a personal note to the widow of the Dallas policeman who had also been killed by Oswald. It reminded me that, no matter my circumstances, there is always the opportunity to reach out to others with grace.
    (JoAnne, I love the photo of you amid the pinons and cholla, so joyful. When I lived in SF, I had a “Christmas tree” that consisted of a large cholla skeleton with many branches that I hung with colored lights. The effect was charming, to me.)

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