When we are born the earth shifts just a little bit. The space that once held no evidence of our presence opens and we are here, the start of our ripple, the beginning of our difference.
As we move through life, our ripple continues to move with us, the space we fill shape-shifting to reflect the words we speak, the things we do, the actions we take. Sometimes, our ripple is a series of beautiful, perfect concentric circles moving outward from our source. Sometimes, our ripple wobbles and bobs, loosing its definition in the rough waters we encounter.
And always, we are the source of our ripple. Always, we are the ripple-maker.
Not just some of us. All of us. Each and every one of us. We are the ripple makers.
Today, my daughter Alexis tells the story of a man who once found himself at the homeless shelter where I used to work. He wasn’t a perfect man by any means, but then, nor was he the most imperfect man who ever lived. He was just a man. A man with his own back story, his own life story, his own set of circumstances that, at the age of 55, lead him to a place he never imagined he would ever end up, a homeless shelter.
In Terry’s case, except for the last two weeks of his life which he spent at a hospice, the homeless shelter was the last place he slept. The last place he called his home. He didn’t like it there, at the shelter. He didn’t like living amidst 1,000 people, having no privacy, no say in what he ate or where he slept or how he drank his coffee even. But then, most of the others didn’t like it any better either. Living in a homeless shelter isn’t something to be liked. In fact, it’s best if you don’t like it as that could give you the impetus to move on, to sort things out so that you can find yourself away from the place you never imagined you would end up.
For Terry, his finding himself away from the shelter never happened. It’s not that he didn’t try. He did try. Very hard. He turned up at cash corner every day hoping to be picked up for odd jobs. And when he wasn’t working, or looking for work, he volunteered constantly at the shelter, letting people onto elevators, showing visitors to where they wanted to go, leading the newcomers to the people they needed to see.
The challenge for Terry was, cancer had a bigger say in his destiny than he had planned. And in the end, it was the cancer that took him on May 31, 2011.
Now that could be the end of the story, except, here’s the thing about ripples, once they’re released they take on a life of their own. They float outward through time and space, bumping up against the ripples of others, creating waves in unknown places, stirring up spirits in unseen waters.
That’s the thing about ripples. We all make them, but none of us control their reach or impact or duration.
Sure, the Prime Minister or President or Pope know their ripples are mighty, but what they cannot know is how and where and when and what the reach of their ripple will cause someone else to do to create a new and different, and sometimes desired and sometimes not, new ripple from their reach.
We gotta be careful with our ripples. They have staying power.
I often use the story of a police officer whose words made a difference in my life when working with women and men who have experienced abuse and are searching for answers. I met the police officer at a time when I was rippling in fear and self-loathing and confusion because I knew the man who had promised to love me forever was lying, cheating, manipulating and scheming — and I was scared. I went to see the police to ask for help but because of the circumstances, there was little they could do. As I was leaving the police station, the detective with whom I’d been speaking said, “This isn’t love. Love doesn’t hurt like this.”
At least, that’s what I remember him saying. Maybe the words are not exactly how he put them, but I knew at the time, he spoke the truth. But I was already too deep, too lost, too frightened to listen deeply.
Fast forward another two years of living hell and the man who promised to love me is arrested and I am reeling in the aftershock of release from the confines of that emotional hurricane. As I sit on my bed, crying and shaking and shivering and praying for guidance, the words of that police officer come unbidden into my mind. “This isn’t love. Love doesn’t hurt like this.”
And that’s when I knew the truth. I wasn’t healing from a love gone wrong. I was healing from abuse. Because no matter how deep I dug into the things he’d said and done, I was always digging into lies. From hello to good-bye, I love you to I hate you, you’re beautiful to you’re ugly, he was the lie and there was no truth to be found in searching for my answers in him.
I had to look within me.
It is over ten years now since those dark days of abuse. And still, the ripple of that officer’s words resonate. Love doesn’t hurt. People hurt. Eachother. Themselves. The world around them.
And always, we have the choice. To make our ripple one of love and harmony, peace and joy.
Or to create discord, anger and pain.
Me, I know the ripple I want to make and so I do my best to ensure my ripple is always a reflection of what I want to create more of in my life.
My daughter wrote today of a man I once knew who in our brief encounter reminded me always that while we may not have control of the winds of change around us, we always have control of how we navigate rough waters.
And in our passing through, we create a ripple that even after we’re gone, can continue to move out into the world and inspire others to do the one thing we are born to do, Live. Fearlessly. Passionately. Completely in Love.