It’s the main theme behind my new novel, Four Rubbings, though I didn’t realize it until after the words took shape. But, the question of how our actions impact the people around us has fascinated me since I was a doe-eyed college student on a campus as populated as my hometown.
Uprooted from small, rural Pasco, Washington, I quickly realized how lucky I was to be a part of university life. It was a place where people were welcome to debate their political views, rally for change, volunteer for civic service and a safe place to discover the elegant, complicated, mess I was. Rather than feeling lost in the numbers of my new urban home, I turned inside myself to define what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I chose to be a good human being. I’m still waiting to grow up.
These days, it is hard to stay true to that lofty tenet. You cut me off today on the freeway. You lied to me, a small, white lie and it hurt. You forwarded a hurtful email to me. You neglected to do the job I hired you to do. You fired my friend’s husband. You put your dog’s poop in my garbage can. And the truth is, my initial reaction was no better than the teens of Four Rubbings. Self-absorbed, irritable, overly dramatic, and immature.
In truth, I am an ugly, scaffolding-enclosed, tarp-wrapped work in progress. If you peeked under the surface you would see me struggle to do the right thing – all the time. My journey is no different than the teens in Four Rubbings. Except that I have had the privilege of thirty extra years to learn.
But what I’ve learned that the teens are on the path to discovering, is to pause before I react. God, it’s been a painful lesson. By nature, I am all things white-hot and fiery. I have strong opinions. I cuss and yell and pout and whine. But, these days I force my feet down a different path, a kinder path. I try to make better ripples now.
So, my fellow flawed, over-stressed, under-appreciated, beautiful human being, I challenge you to tread lightly this week. Smile. Hold a door open for the next guy. Let that car merge. Buy an extra bag of canned goods for the food bank. Then picture the ripples of goodness you’re leaving in your wake.