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Home / Articles / Arts & Entertainment / Celebrities /  The Ripple Effect: Do Small Actions Matter?
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Thursday, September 3,2020

The Ripple Effect: Do Small Actions Matter?

By Liz Sterling  
Hello again! It feels like an introduction is in order. Our world is in such a state of flux. Not only are we entering the height of the campaign season, we’ve all been impacted in so many ways by the pandemic.

Let me ask, how are you? How is your family? And how are your friends? Were you able to shift your fear into favor? Favor, as in service to others? I know this is a big leap, but it’s an important one for us to consider.

Rolling the clock back to April and May, I recall how my eyes peered out toward others on the occasional shopping trips to the market – I can still feel how my body was contorted with fear. If you ventured out then, I’m guessing you know what I am referring to. Not a thought crossed my mind regarding engagement in any way with others.

Yet inspiration came in the form of a growing need to do something to make a difference. I wanted to make some small changes for a big impact, so I started calling students of my Wisdom Circle class to check in.

As a teacher and public speaker, every phone call was received with a similar response: “Liz Sterling, you’re calling me? I can’t believe it!” This always surprises me and leaves me saying the same thing, “We’re all in this together, and I’m most probably going through the same thing you are, so let’s check in.”

I made at least one or two calls per day to my adult students for a solid month. The randomness of the call was a treat for all. I know I left an impression on those I called, and in turn, I’ve discovered, those phone calls travel far and wide. The feel good feeling of connecting with others became a catalyst for more feel good feelings. One act of care and kindness continues in what we know as the ripple effect.

According to an important study by James H. Fowler and Nicholas A. Christakis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have shown that generosity can be highly contagious. In other words, when we act kindly toward one person, that person is much more likely to be kinder toward others in the future.

Wikipedia says, “A ripple effect occurs when an initial disturbance to a system propagates outward to disturb an increasingly larger portion of the system, like ripples expanding across the water when an object is dropped into it. In sociology, the ripple effect can be observed in how social interactions can affect situations not directly related to the initial interaction, and in charitable activities where information can be disseminated and passed from community to community to broaden its impact.”

On the flip side, as a receiver of someone’s good intentions, I will share a brief story. Currently, I’m in Michigan, and have been here since mid-June. Many of us donned our best offensive and defensive fortitude and gear, and abandoned South Florida to escape the heat and rising COVID-19 cases. That was quite a road trip. In my mind, I was full of anxiety, but once I met the reality of being on the road, I felt quite safe by following ALL the protocols.

I am living near a busy road that requires a hazardous left-hand turn to go to town. I could practically get whiplash watching the whizzing of the cars and trucks coming from the right and left. I once waited four minutes for an opportunity to turn. Just last week, a driver stopped and waved me ahead before making their turn, and let me go first. That has never happened before. Aside from my shock, I was amazed, and then, wow, flying high, that someone would do that and let me go first. This seems so trivial, but is important to illustrate a point. Since that event happened, when I have the opportunity to invite someone waiting at that corner to go first, it makes MY day, and I know it makes the other drivers feel good too.

Years ago I interviewed an author who is the founder of a movement. His name is David Wagner. His book is “Life As A DayMaker – How To Change The World By Making Someone’s Day.” The book is about how to be a person who performs intentional acts of kindness, with the intention of making the world a better place. It only takes a moment to make someone’s day. David teaches us to do small things with great love.

On a larger scale, small acts sometimes have huge impacts. Take the Meatless Monday campaign. It’s a global movement that encourages people to reduce meat in their diet for their health, and the health of the planet. It was initially introduced during WWII but was popularized in 2003. As it has been catching on, more and more people have become aware of the health benefits of reducing or eliminating meat in the diet, and for some, the Meatless Monday has become a vegan lifestyle. The ripple effect of that campaign is also reflected in an economic way. For example, have you seen or heard about the Beyond Meat company or the Impossible Burger? These alternative meats are now mainstream, and can be found nationwide in every large supermarket chain store. I am not necessarily advocating for consumption of these products, I am merely illustrating how small acts can parlay into big ripple effects of change.

What can you do – for yourself, your family, friends and community to participate in making the world a brighter and better place? Think about how much your simple, mindful actions can translate into a world you know you helped to make better.

Let this moment be the handing off of my good intentions – a torch, if you will – so together we will light our way to see the ripple effect of a loving and caring world!


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