As I was walking along one canal, two swans came swimming by. I followed them for a long time captivated by the way their movement rippled through an already stunning sight. Their disruption created even greater beauty as light and color played off the water. Tourist sites seemed irrelevant as long as I could watch the swans.
Swimming swans may not seem such an extraordinary thing to you, but they showed me so clearly what we're all here to do: create ripples. We live in a beautiful world, but even with such beauty, our world is suffering.
This past Christmas I was particularly aware of the hurt that is around us: I had just returned from Palestine and was filled with images of soldiers, teargassed children, weapons, and walls, so many walls both physical and intangible, keeping people from loved ones and keeping people from loving. I came home to two friends whose mothers passed away on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I spent time with other friends whose Christmases were less than merry. I felt helpless to do much of anything.
I was happy to ring in a new year, even though the pain of the previous year didn't magically disappear for my friends; they are still hurting. However, for reasons I don't understand, but will not question, ushering in 2015, even though I was asleep when the 4 changed to a 5, has given me new energy and excitement for what may be. I feel empowered. I want to do something. And I can tell that something bigger is brewing within - I can't wait to find out what!
Since the year started, a number of Facebook friends have posted about a "Pay it forward" initiative. I responded "I'm in" to this one:
Friends, 2015 is going to be a great year! To kick it off right and get things moving in the right direction, I want to do something nice for 5 of you.
I am participating in a "Pay it forward" idea. The first five people to comment on this status with "I'm in" will receive a surprise from me at some point during the year (2015)-anything from something handmade, art, a postcard or something-absolutely any surprise!
There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me or I find something that I believe will suit you and make you happy.
To keep this moving forward, these five people must make the same offer on their Facebook status.Once my 5 friends have commented "I'm in", they will then post it as their status. Let's have a groovy, eventful, spunky, spontaneous, mindful, energetic, loving, action-packed, soulful, edified, zany, surprise-filled year.
The friend who posted it is one of the brightest people I know, both in temperament and intelligence. She exudes joy and I am certain that she doesn't need a Facebook prompt to encourage her to share her joy, hope, and radiance. I know this because just a few weeks ago she sent me a beautiful letter, a letter that affirmed our friendship and affirmed the path that I have chosen (or more accurately, that has chosen me). I will admit here that only yesterday did I reply to her and my response was woefully inadequate for the beautiful words she sent me. I have yet to offer the same kind of gracious blessing to her that she bestowed upon me. But I am determined to do so.
My "I'm in" to her post signaled my desire to reach out to other people and to inspire them to do the same. I am in a place in life right now where I have plentiful resources to share. Truthfully, I've always had resources to share; now I am simply more aware of the good that saturates my existence.
When I offered the "Pay it forward" invitation in a Facebook post, I wanted to take it a step farther. I asked the respondents to also message me a name of someone they knew who could use some extra care this year. I've heard from three of the five and am touched by their choices and reasons for choosing particular people.
Unlike my friend whose post I responded to, giving thoughtful and spontaneous gifts is not part of my MO. I need a little prompting to get myself moving in the right direction. I needed the Facebook invitation to get myself going. I am really, really looking forward to adding a little joy to my friends' lives and I am thrilled to extend some love to the folks they chose.
Each invitation and each acceptance creates ripples of goodness moving through the world. If all five "I'm in" friends follow through with five more people, another 25 people get a joy boost, times five, 125 more people and then 625, 3125. You get the idea. How far will it go? Imagine...
In the same way that I was fascinated by the patterns created by the swans, I am intrigued by what beauty may move through the world as a result of this initiative. We won't necessarily be able to see the ripples, but imagining them is just as exciting.
I woke up this morning at about 4:40. On days I go to boot camp, my wake-up time is 4:55, but this wasn't a boot camp day. My alarm was set for 7:00. As I lay in bed, at first resentful that I was awake, my mind swirled with thoughts about "paying it forward" and about a friend who is making monthly goals to practice living a happier life. Resentment soon turned to excitement. I decided in the dark morning hours to create for myself and offer to you a monthly invitation to ripple-making.
This month I invite you to join me in the "pay it forward" initiative. Whether you choose to make your decision public or to carry on quietly and privately is irrelevant. Whether you choose to bless one person or five or more is irrelevant. However you drop joy into lives, the ripples of goodness will expand.
As you consider this invitation, remember that even the smallest ducks can alter the landscape. No act of kindness is too small to ripple out.
May our drops of kindness ripple through the world, disrupting suffering and expanding joy. May we captivate each other with the new vision of beauty that our ripples create.