The Ripple Effect

Featured Image: “Flowers,” © Anne Helmond (own work), October 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. (license)

Several days ago, a constellation of circumstances coincided that prodded my little mind to begin agitating like the trusty, top-loading washer that I bought on sale from Sears when I moved into my first “grown up” apartment. One event rotated through my thoughts, then another, and glistening bubbles began to break open on the water’s flat, unassuming surface. Each one was effervescent and shiny, reflecting rainbows of light across a delicate, tense, shifting film of shimmering soap. If I tried to hold onto any slight notion too tightly, it vanished with a soft “pop,” leaving me with nothing but an eye of soapy water. With a slow blink, I gazed again at the rising suds as they coalesced…

Something was stirring… as the tiny ripples of many disparate eventualities effervesced, their distinctive rainbows mingling into radiant beams…

Many weeks ago, my friend, Nel, sent me a small arrangement of flowers. There was a bit of hassle involved in the delivery, due to the conflicting schedules of the florist van driver and me, but in the end, it all worked out. The delivery person left the flowers in the leasing office of the apartment complex where I live, and I picked them up the following day. Of the three women who work as property managers, Lisa was the only one there that day. I explained that the flowers were from a friend back home and read the attached card, “Something beautiful for someone beautiful.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet,” Lisa observed, sentimentally. Then, with a hint of wistfulness, she added, “Nobody ever sends me flowers.” There was a twinge at my heartstrings as she spoke and a single, pizzicato note reverberated into the universe. I really should buy her some flowers, I thought.

That good intention succumbed to the busyness of my routine, the other demands of my life, this errand, and that whim. I was always pressed for time; I always produced some other excuse. I always told myself, Tomorrow, or The next time, or Today just isn’t a good day. Deep down, there was also the fear of how such an overture might be received. What would Lisa think? Would she think that I wanted some favor? Would she think that I was crazy?

Often, I tell myself that I am an obnoxious, irritating, and demanding tenant. I tell myself that the management staff consider me a difficult and unreasonable person. On more than one occasion in the past six years, Lisa and her two colleagues, Cindy and Mara, as well as the very kind and responsive maintenance worker, Hal, were exposed to me hovering at a rather heightened pitch of existence as I attempted to manage rather monumental and prolonged life stressors. At times, my abilities to cope and self-soothe were less-than-ideal. Although at other opportunities, I always paused time to smile and chat, to ask about their days and their weekend plans, or to inquire about their families, my self-portrait resembled a shrill, shrewish woman, unhinged and unbalanced. Would they just think I was trying to make up for being so high-strung and neurotic?

Then, on an unremarkable Tuesday afternoon, I was picking up yet another box (after ordering yet another book). Mara looked like she was coming to the end of a very rough day. Her face was tired and lined, and even though her eyeshadow twinkled and she smiled pleasantly, the slump of her shoulders betrayed the truth behind her cheerful, “Hello!” I remarked on the sunshine outside and the fact that in fifteen minutes she could leave the office behind to drink up the beautiful weather. She sighed, the corners of her mouth turning up a bit, but her shoulders collapsed even more. I remembered my intention to buy flowers for Lisa, and it occurred to me that Mara could probably use some flowers to brighten her day, too.

bubbles
bubbles,” © tim (own work), October 2007. CC BY 2.0. (license)

My compassion for Mara and Lisa might very well have died right there. However, the very next day, another happenstance stirred my too-often shallow, self-absorbed heart. I was perusing a story about living with integrity written by the talented Eli Pacheco on his wonderful Coach Daddy blog. I felt the inspiration to recommit myself to the LIVING of my values, and I told Eli as much in a responding comment. Driving to work, I entertained myself with contemplations of love, compassion, empathy, and wholeheartedness… and within an hour of sitting at my desk, the distractions of the day drove out all of those blissful ideals.

On my lunch break, without reason, but possibly because I was feeling even more weary and depressed than usual, I decided to head home rather than adhere to my usual routine of eating at my desk. It was only because I stepped away from the office that I thumbed my cellphone off of “airplane mode,” and skimmed my WordPress alerts. There was a message from Eli. “I want to know how your day goes!” it read. Weird, I thought. Why would Eli care about my day? It took a solid minute or two of scrolling to remember the post from the morning and to recall its impact on me at 6am. Finally, the soapy water was starting to froth.

At the end of the day, how am I going to leave the world a better place than I found it this morning? I asked myself. I sat with this question all afternoon. As I made my way home, the song playing on the strings of my heart sounded like, “Flowers for Lisa, Cindy, and Mara. Buy flowers. They might need cheering up.” All of my reasons against this course of action percolated under the surface, but I chose to follow the path of vulnerability instead. At the market down the street, I found three small pots of blooms, one yellow, one orange, and one a vibrant purple. Tentatively, I parked the car in front of the leasing office, and precipitously balancing the pots in my petite hands, I stepped over the threshold.

As it turned out, Mara wasn’t the only one who was exhausted and overworked. They were all busy and burdened with the many demands of multiple spring move-ins and move-outs. Mara explained that her son was on mid-semester break, and she was planning to take vacation to spend time at home with him, but given the demands in the office, she didn’t think she would be able to get away. I think it meant something to them that someone took the time to notice them, to ask how they were doing, and to care. The bright flowers were a bright spot in their day, which became a bright spot in my day.

Turning to leave, I couldn’t help but marvel at the chain of happenchance that resulted in a single, shared moment. Isn’t it wonderful, I thought, the effects that can manifest from one, seemingly insignificant act of kindness? In my mind, Nel and Eli deserved equal credit for planting the seeds of compassion and connection that peeked forth a tender, green shoot that afternoon.

Today, I am making an extra effort to smile at every person I pass. Maybe that person will smile at the next person, who will smile at the next person, who will change the life of someone in need.

Echinops Bubble
Echinops Bubble,” © Tom Blackwell (own work), September 2010. CC BY-NC 2.0. (license)
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17 thoughts on “The Ripple Effect

    1. Anne, thank you so much! The more positivity we can all share, the more the world will change! I think that you do the very same thing with all of your blog posts, too. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jenny! I’m trying to pay closer attention to that little voice inside me. It led me to bring more flowers to a new neighbor over the weekend, and I ended up having the most interesting conversation with a coworker who I noticed wasn’t smiling at a recent work gathering. Turns out her mother was in the hospital. I’m finding it’s amazing what I can choose to be aware of if I want to be, and how much I miss when I’m not! I hope that you’re having a great week. Take care! ~ Lulu

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re so right, Lulu. You remind me to be more mindful to those around me. Someone could really be struggling, and hiding it well. It’s nice to reach out in small ways to show you care. Have a great day, Jenny

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I love things like this … A long time ago, I figured out that when I am feeling exceptionally sorry for myself, nothing is quite as good a medicine as being kind to others.

    And you’re right: even that smile on the street can make a world of difference in making BOTH parties feel better. 🙂

    I work in property management, and some days it can feel truly thankless. It makes me smile to know that three harried managers got a bright spot in their day. Keep spreading your sunshine, beautiful girl!! It looks good on you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I give those who work in property management huge credit! All day long there seems to be a stream of demands made of them, and I wonder how often people say, “Thank you.” I hope that you find a little sunshine cast your way today. I know that you will send out your own rays, because you always do. Even here in the blogging universe, they’re hard to miss. 😉 ☀️

      It’s wonderful to be a part of something that seems to bring out the best in the other people around. That’s why I love blogging here. It’s hard to practice living up to my values in the real world, but then I come back here and am instantly reminded and encouraged. Thanks for being a part of that! Have a merry, lovely day! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that. What a beautiful thing to say, and it’s so true: we all need reminders to stay positive and kind and to pass on the goodness we’ve been given. You’re doing such a great job of that.

        Grateful for you! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lulu – what an inspiring story. What we do every day, the way we are open to the world and people around us. Ways to interact and receive what’s meant for us from the world. You have this in you. We all do!

    The trick is to keep it switched on. Be open to it. You have a tremendous amount of kindness inherent in you. I’ve known that from the moment you crossed blog paths with me. Here’s to the great parts of life ahead when we share this space like this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eli – Thank you so much for your tremendously kind and encouraging words. I am deeply humbled and very touched. I’m ever so grateful that we crossed blog paths! You are so right about the hard part being to keep the openness and kindness switched on. Having the support of fellow bloggers who are trying to live life with the same care and concern has been a huge gift! Wishing us all well along the journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful post Lulu. It’s one thing to think positive and charitable thoughts and it’s quite another to act them out. You really did make the world a better place. Whether it’s giving flowers, or a smile or just holding a door open for someone we can all do our tiny bit in bringing kindness into the world. It doesn’t take much. Wishing you a happy weekend Lulu. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Miriam! Thank you, again, for such a lovely comment! Just living in this world is pretty hard, and I think that in many ways, there is “collateral damage” done throughout my typical day. Sometimes I can be abrupt or rude at the checkout line or cut someone off during my commute. Just being caught up in my own busyness and my own world can lead me to be careless and insensitive. Being conscientious about spreading a smile or a kind word where I can feels like the first step toward undoing that. Take care, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You too my friend. I think we’re all guilty of being caught up in our own world at some point. Don’t be too hard on yourself, the important thing is that you’re aware of it and conscious of trying to do better. We’re only human. Hugs to you. xx

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