For kids and parents alike

The Ripple Effect

by Anita DiGregory

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:9, 11-13)

This remains one of my absolute favorite passages from the Bible.  Imagine this guy, Elijah, hanging out in this cave waiting for God.  He’s probably a bit nervous, right?  The wind rips by so powerfully that it is destroying the rocks around him, but God is not in the wind. Then a violent earthquake shakes the very ground he stands on, but that’s not God. Next, a massive fire with all its heat and destruction erupts, but that is not God either.  It is all very noisy and confusing and even scary. It sounds almost like the year we’ve all had: 2020, the year of epidemic, violence, isolation, turbulence, earthquakes, hurricanes…and let’s not forget those murder hornets. Do you almost feel like a marathon runner, winded and exhausted as a result of the long, hard run, but pushing yourself because that finish line is oh so close?

Here we are about to embark on, traditionally, the busiest season of the year. But this year, many of the shows, parties, parades, and get-togethers have been altered. Even shopping is different due to the many protocols in place. 

The truth is, we have had very little control over most of what 2020 has presented to us; but, we do have control over what we can do for ourselves, our families, and even the world in these last few weeks of the year.

Have you ever visited a still body of water with your children? My children love throwing rocks into the water. They love the “plops” they make and the ripple of waves those little rocks send out far across the water. Those little rocks have the ability to create a reverberation clear across the pond, and what started as small little circles spreads out larger and larger…the bigger the rock, the bigger the “plop,” the bigger the ripple effect.

Addressing a crowd, Saint Pope John Paul II once remarked, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the world in which we live.” We have the ability to create a huge ripple effect…the ability to make a true and lasting difference, one family at a time. 

In these last weeks, when the outside world seems so loud and out of control, let’s strive for quiet simplicity. While the world seems full of anger and hate, let’s make it our mission to love well.  In this time of preparation and waiting, let’s make it a time of light and hope. In a year when the overwhelming theme has been “everything is different,” we can make a difference.

What can we do? We can draw our loved ones close. We can read them classic Christmas stories or watch our family-favorite movies in front of the fire. We can send Christmas cards to military members and first responders, thanking them for their dedication, service, and sacrifice. We can deliver care packages to isolated family members. Together, we can donate to community food banks and toy drives. We can pray, and sacrifice, and hope, and love. And those tiny ripples can make larger ones that can be farther reaching than we can even imagine.

So, in this year of pandemic, let’s remember what that famous doctor taught us. Let’s consider that last scene in the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After stripping the poor Who’s of all their food, presents, toys, decorations, and musical instruments, the Grinch (played this year by the mean ole’ year 2020), anxiously awaiting the villagers’ sorrow, is instead dumbfounded by their joyful celebration.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: how could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! And he puzzled three hours, ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

So, my dear friend, I wish you the merriest of Christmases, a blessed last few weeks of the year, and the best new year. And, if the loudness and confusion of the world start to rob you of your peace, remember in your quiet, peaceful, loving way, you CAN make a difference…and in that stillness listen carefully because God IS in the whisper.

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