Friday, March 21, 2014

Ripple Effect


     According to Wikipediaa "ripple effect is a situation where, like the ever expanding ripples across water when an object is dropped into it, an effect from an initial state can be followed outwards incrementally."  The examples used in the article come from economics, sociology, financial markets, AND charitable activities.  The example given for charitable activities is "where information can be disseminated and passed from community to community to broaden its impact."  That seems pretty reasonable, but I'm not precisely sure how it is "charitable".  And the example for economics is "an individual's reduction in spending reduces the incomes of others and their ability to spend."
      I've found myself thinking about the "ripple effect" this week, and wanted to see how it was described.  The cause for my "pondering" was the reportage of the one-year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis.  Obviously, the current head of the Roman Catholic Church has been one of the top newsmakers of the year.  He was Time's "Person of the Year"; he garnered the same accolade from The Advocate, the leading LGBT magazine in the U.S.  Yet, according to a report/article generated by the Barna Group entitled "What Do Protestants Think of Pope Francis", "the Pope insists he is 'a normal person' and has no desire to be 'a superman or a star".
       I put that assertion into "conversation" with another event of the week, the awarding of Congressional Medals of Honor (many posthumously) to American military heroes who had previously been passed over because of their race or ethnicity.  In reading about the recipients, I was struck by how much those (who were able to comment), asserted in general, that they were just doing their job, or supporting their unit.  In short, they were "normal soldiers/Marines/sailors" who had no desire to be stars.
       Pope Francis, as well as the Medal of Honor recipients, 
regardless of how they see themselves, clearly have had "ripple effects".  And, contrary to the economics example above, where an individual's "reduction in spending reduces the income of others", the actions of those newsmakers of the week has the potential of increasing valor or compassion or understanding . . . . . without ever meeting the people who they influence.
       Influence, or the ripple effect, stands behind the famous statement attributed to Margaret Mead:  "
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." *  If we look back in history, we see this "truth" repeated over and over again -- and not necessarily by people who were out to "make a mark".  Many simply wanted to do the "right thing", and, in so doing, succeeded in doing much more.
        Barna Group president, David Kinnamon, commenting on the research that was behind the article, said, “The research shows the profound influence transformative leaders can have even beyond those directly under their leadership."  I would venture a guess that the same is true for most of us, even if we don't see ourselves as "transformative leaders". We all have, I believe, more power and influence than we imagine!

Chaplain Gary

* "Attributed" to Margaret Mead -- apparently that attribution is contested!  

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