The Ripple Effect

The power of your smile and random acts of kindness to create a sea of change

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When you toss a pebble into the ocean there is a ripple effect. This we know.

However, in the busyness of life, we can easily forget that every one of our actions, like the pebble, creates a ripple effect.

Definition of A Ripple Effect: The continuing and spreading results of an event or action

Here’s the thing about The Ripple Effect. When it’s powered by random acts of kindness it can create a tidal wave of good feelings and positive change.

I now find my thoughts traveling far back in time as I remember the random acts of kindness that kept me afloat as I bobbed around on the seas of life

It was 1996 and I had recently moved to Amsterdam with my first husband. We were living what some may call the dream. A lovely apartment overlooking the Keizersgracht Canal, good careers, and money. BUT, we didn’t know happiness. There was a time when we did, but now we didn’t, and it was painful.

A very unsettling knowing was stirring within me. I tried to push it down but it continued to bubble beneath the surface. Something had to give. There was a part of me that had been buried. But at that time in my life, there was a greater, more fearful part of me at the helm and holding course. That part of me wanted change but she didn’t want the upheaval that came with it. She was comfortable with being uncomfortable. Safety and security were her ports of call.

A great deal happened in those first 6 months in Amsterdam. There was love and laughter. But there was also a great deal of sadness and pain.

I recall in vivid detail the sunny Sunday morning when the taxi company rang to say my cab would be there in 15 minutes. I was leaving. I had to. It was no longer bearable for either of us. And although I was exhausted, a fight still raged within me.

WHY are you doing this?
It’s not THAT bad!
What are you THINKING?

I frantically called my sister in England, sobbing down the phone, I asked myself and her

Why AM I DOING this?
What is WRONG with me?

I’ll never forget her calming words

Louise, if you never leave you’ll never know.

And it was at that point I knew. I could no longer live in a sea of indecision. So I set sail.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore

André Gide 

But as you may know, the seas of life can be ferocious. To stay afloat I had to learn how to navigate those unpredictable waters.

My plans for my life had been scuppered. What next? I did not know. I tried to wall up my emotions. But there were days when they would come crashing down around me.

In those dark days and nights, it was the love of my family, my friends, and random acts of kindness from strangers that kept me going. Some of those random acts I will never forget. They were a warm salve for my aching heart and are forever etched in my memory.

Never under-estimate the power of your Smile!

We all can do it! And it costs nothing. When we smile it stirs something within us. Try it! Now! Wherever you are. Take a moment to smile and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Then notice the ripple effect around you. Maybe your colleagues think you look a little odd and they start to smile.

It feels GOOD to smile. But it’s not just how it makes us feel, its how our smile can touch the hearts of others. As I write I find myself thinking of Suzie. Suzie was the receptionist at the hostel that was now my new home. Suzie had the most amazing smile.

There are times in our lives when we need to catch our breath and feel some light relief from the day. Suzie’s smile had that effect on me. Though I’m sure she lit the way for many.

Each night I looked forward to seeing Suzie. As I stepped through the hostel doors there Suzie would be, sitting at the reception, ALWAYS smiling.

LOUISE! How are YOU? How was your day?

It’s hard to imagine or fathom how a smile can make such a massive difference in a person’s life. But that’s what Susie’s smile did for me.

And, on the days when Suzie wasn’t there … well … there were no smiles, and the world was a darker place for it.

Never underestimate the power of your smile to brighten another person’s day.

When the smallest of things can make the greatest difference

The hostel had been my home for a little over a month. It was 6.30 on a cold, winter morning when the cab pulled up outside to take me to a hotel on the other side of town. Sitting in the back seat, looking out the cab window, the cold rain was relentless matching with equal measure the relentless grief that had come to live within me.

I tried to cheer myself turning my thoughts to the coffee station that would be waiting for me when I arrived.

Stepping through the doors of the banqueting hall, an unexpected tidal wave of grief rose up within me. I tried to catch it.

For heavens sake Louise Pull yourself together!

I took a deep breath.

Inside the banqueting hall, a middle-aged man was busy setting up the room. We greeted one another. My attention traveled to the coffee station. My heart sank. It was empty.

No coffee yet, I ventured.

Not yet. It’s a little early, we’ll make it fresh at 8.

Ah, yes. Of course.

Sensing my disappointment, he kindly offered

“Would you like a coffee?”

Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you!

The man left the room, returning some 15 minutes later with a cappuccino! I couldn’t believe it. A regular coffee would have lifted this sad, sorry girl’s heart. But a cappuccino! I thanked him profusely and to this day I still wish that I could thank him and tell him how he’d thrown me a life-line that day. Even now, it warms my heart to remember.

Pay it forward. Definition: respond to a person’s kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else

I learned a lot in those 3 years in Amsterdam, especially the power of random acts of kindness. And, how when we share and return them we can set in motion a powerful sea of change.

25 years on I like to think that I am now the captain of my life. I live with my second husband Rob (he’s a captain too) on a remote island on the central west coast of Canada, settlers in the heart of Haíłzaqv (Heiltsuk) Traditional Territory. Who knew the sea of life would carry me here.

As I look back I have come to learn that we are always finding our way. There will be times when we are called to navigate the rough seas of life and times when we can sit back and bask in the sun as it shines.

In all of this, one thing I have come to notice, when the sun shines, for the most part so do we. And just like the sun we too have the power to share our loving light with the world.

So, if you can, smile! It costs nothing. And in the days when you don’t have a smile within you let’s hope that a stranger can pay it forward with one of their’s

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