It happens to you. It happens to me. We read or hear about an item, an idea or an absurdity and everywhere we turn there is evidence of that particular notion. Undoubtedly it strikes a chord at first, which subconsciously alerts our eyes and ears to additional evidence. But why? Because we have a certain lesson to learn – as the saying “when the student is ready the teacher will show up” indicates? Or because we need to share something? Or because we read goofy stuff and listen to goofy people and goofy minds have a way of thinking alike as do great ones?
‘Ripple’ has invaded my space with an overwhelming attack, making me wonder where to find a bottle of it. I’m not talking about chocolate ripple ice cream, which might be the comfort food of choice while I figure this out. Nor am I talking about the ripples in my skin that the ice cream certainly contributes to. And I don’t really mean the little waves on a body of water, not exactly. It’s more like the invisible ripples caused by words and actions. I suppose the self-talk in our heads, never spoken aloud, causes similar ripples.
First, a memo on a Facebook page touting the positive outcomes of kind deeds, comparing them to ripples. Size doesn’t matter. A branch from a tree and an aggravating horsefly both create ripples. So it is with outward manifestations of kindness. Second, a teaser about a portion of a radio program that would deal with studies showing anger and kindness equally contagious – due to the ripple effect. (I call it a teaser since it made me set my alarm for 5 AM to listen possibly till 9 AM for the few minutes’ discussion about that topic). Next, a book title. Then, an old clipping. Ripples have my attention.
One slowly-sipped mug of coffee and an hour of talk radio later, I heard what I was waiting for. A 32-year study (Yale I think) of about 5000 people in one Massachusetts town supported the ripple theory. As one person became happy or sad, the others in their circles manifested similar emotions. Unfortunately, negative emotions were more infectious. Anger leads to more anger. Knee-jerk reactions to anger catalysts are seldom productive. Anger is bad for our health, too. Kindness is also contagious. Though the effects are more subtle, they are evident nonetheless and conversely good for our personal health.
Remember hearing, and I paraphrase, “if you can’t say something nice, keep your mouth shut” from authority figures in our youth? There is measurable evidence that it benefits both the intended receiver and the speaker. Research shows that one-on-one people are generally good to each other, if they leave politics out of it and interact face-to-face rather than via social media. We get clues from another when we interact in the flesh. It’s easier to bash someone via screens – no body language, facial expressions or tones to wave the red flag that our words are perceived as attacks to someone we would never accost sharing a hamburger and fries at McD’s.
So…I am focusing on the positive ripple effect. If I find myself in your puddle, I will strive to be optimistic. If you carry an anchor of negativity with you, please stay out of my puddle. Optimism begets kindness. I believe we can coach one another with goodwill without attacking, that there is room for improvement all around us and within, that if we make mistakes we can learn from them, and that we all basically never intend to do harm.
Optimism is…our need to declare what ‘needs to be’ in the face of what is. Optimism is not uncool; it is rebellious and daring and vital,” says Guillermo del Toro and I agree.