The Ripple Effect

5"x 7" mixed media on canvas board
It is very easy to have a negative outlook on life.

We are taught daily through various outlets that existence is a miserable affair, full of suffering, disease, war and hated. Our news is filled with violence and death. We are also bombarded with the notions that material possessions make the person, image is everything and the only things worth pursuing are popularity or money.

This makes it harder to see the positive around us, yet it exists: the beauty of the world slipping quietly into spring, sunsets that have yet to be marred by a human hand, stars shining in an unblemished sky, the very air we breathe, the water we drink, and the Earth itself.

Everyday, there are worldwide protests against wars, efforts to combat poverty, and humanitarian initiatives to offset corporate greed. Outside, there are couples strolling in love and children laughing. There will be poetry readings, art events, dance gatherings, choir performances and theater shows today. A myriad network of volunteers are currently helping the poor, needy and ill. Others are working towards preservation of our wildlife, oceans and lands.

But we have been conditioned not to see those things. In fact, we've been indoctrinated in cultures that often take all that for granted.

Yet Life is thriving all around us As long as this fact exists, there is always hope. And with that hope, people make a difference with the ripple of effect of Positivity.

These days, I know it seems our world is tipping toward catastrophe. It seems hard to believe any person can make a difference against the rising tides of hatred and intolerance we've seen in the last year through social media. In this light, it might be reasonable to accept that our revolutionaries throughout history were simply anomalies.

Personally, I'm not convinced. Whether we're talking about Rosa Parks or JFK, these people weren't born knowing what their path was going to be. Changing the world wasn't always what they were about either. Gandhi had his epiphany on a train. Harriet Tubman was once a child who could not save anyone. And there as a time when nobody knew John Lennon existed.

We often underestimate the power we have. Our lives are spent on defense, trying to outpace a society constantly pushing us into boxes. Yet when you walk with hope and love, you become the embodiment of a universal message of acceptance, inclusion and peace. Then it's not about fighting the world from your corner. The journey becomes a never-ending lesson where your small acts of kindness can heal a wound or save a life.  I'll give you an example.

One day, I was on the 3 train in Brooklyn, headed home. At one of the stops, a man entered my train car. His presence stunned everyone to silence. He had the most horrific burns all over his face and head. The only unblemished portion of his face were his eyes, which burned with intense anger. No one knew what to do or say. So they looked elsewhere. Some of them stared in horror. Others whispered. The man become visibly agitated by the reactions.

Suddenly, the man got off the train at a random stop. Intuition told me to follow him. He ended up going into a convenience store up the street to buy a soda. Just before he reached the register, I lightly touched his arm and offered him the roses I had with me. I'd picked them up from a street vendor before boarding the train because they were pretty. But I felt he needed a reminder of kindness more than I needed the flowers.

"I don't know you," I said, "but something told me you needed these. I hope it's all right."

His eyes filled with tears as he took them. He admitted that he'd been so terribly angry about his injuries that he had been thinking very violent thoughts all day. He also told me he'd been on his way to get his motorcycle to act on them. So I spent some time walking around Brooklyn with him because he needed someone to listen to his pain.

The man's name is Marshall. And by the end of our walk, he was smiling and no longer angry.

I gave a stranger flowers. And for a moment, it gave him hope. Did those flowers heal his burns? No, but they reminded him there are decent people in this world. Taking the time to listen to him during the walk also drove home the point that he doesn't have to be alone with his experience. And sometimes that's all any of us need. When we are truly heard, the effect of Positivity carries us forward into the next moment before we lose ourselves to despair.

Being positive is a gift that doesn't end. Like a pebble striking water, these ripples expand outwards until others are affected by it as well. I'm not saying that we should ignore the negative aspects of life. I'm actually suggesting that we defiantly hold on to our love and hope in the face of them.

Change doesn't always wait for one person to stand up and lead. Sometimes it starts just by helping others see that this life is still worth living. And once we decide that it is, we can impact everything around us just by being true to who we are.

There are enough apathetic people in our world, friends. 
Choose not to be one of them.
 Be calm. Be well. Be You.



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