I had a new friend accompany me for a short time on my walk this morning. I'd guess he was about 9 years old with too short jeans, a baseball cap slammed down on his uncombed shock of hair and a couple of ungainly teeth that hadn't found their rightful places in his mouth yet. I fished a dog biscuit out of my pocket for his buddy Sherman, a rambunctious black lab bounding with joy to be out on an early morning adventure. We talked about our dogs (the boy and I, not Sherman) and he was sad to learn that Stanley, the killer bichon, was blind and old. He explained he was on his way to a friend's house who, he excitedly told me, he would be spending the day with and the next day his friend would be spending the day at his house. We parted waving as I headed down the "broken down bridge" road back to my house and he continued on to his friend's. I doubt that our chance early mountain morning encounter will have any lasting effect on him but it sure started my day off with a smile. And perhaps some day when the boy is older he will carry dog biscuits in his pocket and he'll take the time to stop and share his morning with another young boy and he'll be better for it.
On another recent morning, Jeremy Henwood took a break from his job and stopped in at a McDonalds to grab something to eat. While he stood in line, a 13 year old boy came up behind him and asked him for a dime because he wanted to buy some cookies and didn't have enough money. Jeremy bought the young man three cookies and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. The boy responded that he wanted to be an NBA player and Jeremy advised him that he would have to work hard for that. As he left the building I'm sure Jeremy didn't wonder if his short conversation or his small act of kindness would have any lasting effect on the boy, he might have given himself a little pat on the back and felt a little better about himself or it might have been such a common occurrence for him that he never gave it another thought. He could not dream that his random act of kindess would end up effecting hundreds of people, maybe thousands, maybe millions. 3 minutes after leaving that McDonalds, war veteran and rookie policeman, Jeremy Henwood, was shot and killed as he sat in his patrol car . And today, because of a restaurant surveillance tape that captured his actions just minutes before his senseless death, the ripple effect of his last, seemingly insignificant, act of kindness is spreading in ever widening compassionate circles.
The above Prayer of Saint Francis was always one of my favorite hymns in parochial school. I'm sure I didn't pay adequate attention to the words back then but recently one of my mmabser friends, colparker who is a proven demonstrative disciple of that much esteemed plea from St. Francis, has been featuring it in the signature line of his posts and it has served as a familiar gentle instruction for me.
When I started this blog, I don't think I was thinking of the ripples I would make with it. Instead I think I was "lead" to do it in a desperate attempt to help myself. Like Jeremy Henwood, I am employed in a helping profession, nursing. It is a profession that has more than its share of addicts and alcoholics. We nurses are much more comfortable helping others than asking for and accepting help for ourselves. So I presented this blog to my stubborn "I can do this myself without any help from anybody else" mind as a way to help others but somewhere along the line while I was extending my hand out to others, I started hanging on to theirs for help and support. Just like in the prayer above while looking to console, I was consoled, when trying to provide understanding, it was given back to me, in loving others, I was loved. I sent out a call only to have it return to me in caring echoes and the ripples I was making were bouncing off distant shores and coming back to me in gentle swells, raising me up slowly and steadily. When I drank I liked to make a big splash that resulted in an immediate, fantastic effect. It could be awe inspiring but also devastating. I couldn't see the turmoil and menacing undercurrents it was causing under the surface and the magnificent waves that resulted were unpredictable and could destroy or erode anything or anyone that was trapped in its path. I couldn't see how far those waves would go or how wide their storm path was.
I can't see how far my caring little ripples will travel either but I'm content to know they carry no threat with them and that whatever or whoever they wash up against will not be harmed and they will be sent back to me a hundredfold.
So today I'm out there doing my best to honor Jeremy's memory by keeping the ripples flowing and St. Francis's prayer echoing.