I will never forget that Thanksgiving.
One of my grandsons came home from pre-school with a nasty stomach bug a week before Thanksgiving break. It quickly spread to his older brother and his parents, my son and daughter-in-law. “Oh, poor them!” I thought.
Before long, my daughter-in-law’s family began showing symptoms of the horrible bug. First her mom and dad, then her brother, uncle, cousins, and grandma. “Oh, poor them!” I thought.
Of course, our family was next. First, the son visiting from Oregon (but, oddly, not his wife), then my husband, and finally, two days before Thanksgiving, me. “Oh, poor us!” I thought.
We got together that Thanksgiving Day at my daughter-in-law’s parents’ house, hollow-eyed and wan. I thought no one could possibly eat Thanksgiving dinner after what we had been through, but we did, gingerly and with much hesitation.
We nibbled at the turkey, tentatively ate some bland mashed potatoes, looked at the vegetables without much interest, and waited until the following day for dessert.
The illness started with the smallest one in our group, then spread like wildfire. It was amazing, I thought, the way ripples unfurled in ever-widening circles, enveloping more and more people in our own little epidemic. Similar to a pebble tossed in a pond.
My grandson, of course, did not throw the pebble. It was cast by fate and the virus. He was blameless for his role in the whole affair.
I believe; however, we sometimes fling pebbles that set off an unintended set of ripples. Those ripples are difficult, if not impossible, to stop or reverse.
When we speak harshly to a child, whether it is out of frustration, tiredness, stress, or anger, we toss a pebble.
When we mistreat a loyal and trusting pet who has no recourse but to cower, we toss a pebble.
When we ignore a friend’s request for help, leave a poor tip for a server, cut another driver off in traffic, lie to make ourselves look good – pebble, pebble, pebble, pebble.
I fear some in our country have lately been hurling stones of hate, divisiveness, and violence. They are initiating ripples that, once unloosed, cannot easily be called back.
We need reminders to lob the correct kinds of pebbles. When we send out pebbles of love and compassion, the resulting ripples soothe rather than agitate.
When we return an unkind word with a tender rejoinder, we toss a pebble.
When we express our gratitude, we toss a pebble.
When we laugh at a friend’s joke, lend a sympathetic ear, make eye contact and greet people with a smile, hold the door for a stranger, say “I’m sorry” when necessary – and mean it, we toss pebbles. When we accept responsibility for our actions, clean up our own mess, arrive promptly when meeting others, and generously offer our help to those who need it, we are launching pebbles that cause ripples of acceptance, kindness, generosity.
We don’t have to make a huge, grand gesture. Big gestures are sometimes more about the giver than the receiver anyway. Waiting for the opportunity to make a colossal effort sometimes blinds us to the small achievements we can make every day.
We make a difference in the world the same way we build God’s Kingdom – brick by brick, one after another. With consistent but significant slight endeavors.
One pebble at a time.
Let us all be mindful of the pebbles we hurl out into the world.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
– Galatians 6:7
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