The Ripple Effect
April 29th, 2011

Pay it Forward was a simply horrible movie.  So I sort of cringe to broach this topic because discussions of this nature always remind me of that movie and, well, make me cringe.  Nevertheless I came across this piece on The Huffington Post last night and it caught my attention.

Author David Nichtern points out that one of the hallmark tenets if Buddhism is the belief in the ripple effect.  That is, that there is a relationship between cause and effect, and that we can exert our influence over the happenings in our lives by taking actions that bring about certain reactions.  He comments:

If we manifest grasping, aggression and ignorance in the smallest details of our interaction with others, these energies gather power and strength like an avalanche. If we lace our smallest exchanges with awareness, courtesy, consideration and compassion, we can create a ripple effect with a different outcome.

Nichtern goes on to point out that adding such awareness and compassion to our interactions with others are really just the basic elements of common courtesy.  And I think that common courtesy is far too often overlooked.  Call me old fashioned (and in some ways I am), but it seems to me sometimes that the world has gotten big enough that we believe we can afford to abandon common courtesy.  If we step on someone’s toes today we may not ever see that person again, so why not just look out for ourselves?  Perhaps we can get away with this approach for a while, but I don’t think it sounds like a very satisfying way to live.

So, in the interest of keeping this post brief, I will part with this thought: do something courteous today.  Do something nice for someone who didn’t ask for it.  It doesn’t have to be anonymous.  It doesn’t have to be significant.  Hold a door.  Offer someone change for the vending machine.  Let the person in a hurry take the taxi you just hailed.  Or whatever other opportunity avails itself to you.  I highly doubt you’ll regret it.  And it might just circle back to you.

4 Responses to “The Ripple Effect”

  1. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Just this week, someone did something remarkably thoughtful and generous for my younger son. When he told me about it, I couldn’t help but tear up. It took me a moment, but then I said to him: Just remember. When you can, pay it forward.

    This is what keeps the world cushioned in enough compassion for us to keep the possibility of a genuinely connected community alive.

    Thank you for this post, Gale.

  2. Cathy Says:

    Such a timely post. I am teaching my teen how to drive and a situation came up where I encouraged him to brake to allow another driver to enter into the busy traffic stream. I also used that as a teaching opportunity for general “niceness”. I so much believe in this – karma is what I call it. I live my daily life with the goal of doing at least one random nice thing for someone every day.

  3. Gale Says:

    Cathy – What a lovely way to live your life. I should adopt the same motto.

  4. Jane Says:

    My daughter will sometimes say to me, “Mom, you’re just too nice.” This typically comes when I’ve let someone go ahead of me in traffic or in a grocery line and they rudely don’t acknowledge the courtesy. And I always reply, “You can never be too nice.” What a lovely post and a lovely reminder for us! Thank you for that!