One of my fondest memories of growing up, going to our family’s camp along the Allegheny River in Western Pennsylvania, is the quiet time I got to spend with my Grandpa. We used to go on walks through the woods, jump over little streams (sometimes I missed because my legs were short), watch quietly for wildlife, and just enjoy one another.
One day, Grandpa decided that I was old enough to collect some flat stones down by the riverbank. I had to be very careful not to slip into the water because that could be dangerous; but he was always right beside me as we looked at stones and collected them. They couldn’t be too thick, but had to be thin stones, and kind of flat. I was excited because I envisioned us building a fort, or a wall of some sort, for something. He was always building or improving something around the camp.
When we had just the right number of stones collected, he put them in a bucket and off on our adventure! ‘Where are we going, Papa?’, I would say. He said, ‘right down here on the dock’. On the dock!!! I wasn’t supposed to go on the dock that was floating on the river, and attached to the riverbank somehow, except when I was with a grownup. I remember it had tires attached all around three sides of it, so that the boats could be attached to each side. He had a cruiser boat that our whole family could fit on and cruise up the river toward East Brady. There was also a little fishing boat that we would go out on for fishing adventures sometimes. ‘What are we going to do???’
We stood on the edge of the dock facing the river, and he said ‘OK, we’re going to skip these stones’. I wondered what in the world does that mean? I only know how to skip with my feet (I wonder if I can still do that.. I’ll have to try that later 😊). He showed me how to hold the flat round stones in my hands with my thumb and pointer finger, almost like you were making the OK sign. 👌 You’d then hold it horizontally, and with your wrist, you would point it toward yourself, and then quickly jerk it outward toward the water and then try to just skim the rock over the surface of the water. If it would hit just right, it would touch down and then ‘skip’ itself across the top of the water. In trying to learn this technique, I had many ‘kerplunk’ sounds, when the stone would just send up a splash of water and sink.
Eventually, I was able to throw it just right so it would skip 4 or 5 times before it sank! Yay! I did it! We would do this for a long time… he was a very patient teacher with me. What was intriguing to me is the way the water would make little waves, or ripples, each time it hit. I liked the ripples because I liked to watch how far they would go out, and each throw would enable the ripples to go out further and further.
Yesterday some of us got together in a ‘zoom room’ for a Bible Study. We share concerns on our hearts, a lesson is read from Charles Swindoll’s book, ‘Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life’, and then we talk about it. At the end, there is prayer. The ‘title’ of yesterday’s reading was ‘trophies’. The story, itself, was a short reading about Mozart, probably the most gifted composer of all time having written numerous operettas, cantatas, symphonies, six hundred works altogether! He was young when he died, only 35, accomplished astonishing works, but died in obscurity.
It’s unclear where he was buried, but on the tombstone must be carved the numbers 1756 – 1791. His ‘trophy’ of his life that lingers on is his music, that brings much pleasure to endless generations. In looking back, the importance of the numbers engraved on Mozart’s tombstone is what comes between them, the horizontal line, the ‘dash’, says Swindoll.
I am also reminded of the movie, ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’. Mr. Holland was a composer who became a high school music teacher. He had a enormous impact on his students, and teaching was his real calling on this earth. Writing a symphony is something he always wanted to accomplish. At the end, at his retirement, some of his students over the course of 30 years got together and performed together, and Mr. Holland conducted. He was told that he WAS the symphony in the lives of his students.
The dash, the trophies left to future generations from our lives will live on and on. What do we want that to be? What do we want our ‘dash’ to tell to our children, grandchildren, neighbors, friends, and beyond? What ripples do we wish to send out to the world to touch others?
Many of us will never leave big, magnificent, earth shattering legacies. I believe God does extraordinary works through ordinary acts. Those ordinary acts, ripples, are done with love. Simple kindness. Who in your life has left a significant mark, that made a difference? Maybe at this time, send them a note and let them know they made a difference in your life. Imagine how that would make them feel.
The world is filled with much negativity these days. I’m feeling that people are becoming antsy being quarantined with the pandemic, eager to get back out there, anxious to see family and friends, uneasy and afraid about the job market. There is fear and tensions run high. If ever we needed to spread positiveness, kindness, courtesy, and love, it is now. Let our ripples to others, which will become our legacy some day, be filled with goodness, kindness, and hospitality. This brings to mind the scripture from Philippians 4:8 ‘Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ In other words, you become what you fill your mind with.
There was a reading many years ago that stuck with me as I was a young mother, it was this, Children Learn What they Live.
Children Learn What They Live
by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
There is a song playing in my head right now, ‘Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me’… We can make the world a little better by sending out the ripples of kindness, encouragement, and positivity. Just for today, I will choose to be kind… What will your ‘dash’, or ripples tell?