It’s almost a year to the day that I embarked on a research trip to the beautiful city of York in northeast England. For a history lover, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of – a medieval walled city replete with ancient churches, cobbled alleyways, atmospheric ruins, museums, galleries, historic houses, cosy bookstores and quintessential English pubs! There’s something undeniably magical about the place. The very air is heavy with history, and it’s as though its past inhabitants walk alongside you. However, it was some of the present-day occupants that caught my attention.
In the shadow of the breathtaking thirteenth-century York Minster, the number of people sleeping rough was staggering. Day after day, I watched as throngs of tourists and locals alike walked past these people without acknowledging them – without even seeing them. It was as though they were invisible. I understand that this was not done out of malice, that often we feel that by not looking we’re maintaining the person’s dignity, or perhaps we’re afraid to make eye contact because if we acknowledge them, if we engage in conversation, then we may be forced to open our hearts and help.
Whatever the reason, something changed in me on that trip, and I realised that I could no longer turn away – not just from my fellow humans living on the streets, but from all the suffering taking place in our world.
As a highly sensitive person, in the past I’d tried to shield myself from the world’s pain, from the stuff that made me uncomfortable. But now I found that I could no longer do that. I thought it was enough to pray and meditate for a better world and to love from afar. But now I understood that this alone was not enough. As the extraordinary Bob Goff says, love takes action – “love does.”
Not long after returning home, I was woken up at 3 am with the words ‘the ripple effect’ playing on perpetual loop in my mind. I wrote in my journal that I thought it might have something to do with how one small act of kindness inspires another and is a powerful catalyst for change. I awaited further insights. It wasn’t long before the insights came thick and fast, and within weeks Ripples of Love was born!
The last year has been a testament to the fact that together we can do something to alleviate the suffering that’s happening in our own community. Together we can make a difference to the lives of people in need and respond to the challenges facing our society with compassion. For the last year we’ve been a witness to the truth – one act of love, one act of kindness directed at another can inspire a cascade of generosity and have a powerful and far-reaching ripple effect that can transform lives. The benefits are also twofold. Love heals the giver as much as the recipient.
What I’ve learned is that to live the deeply fulfilling and connected life that many of us dream of takes courage—courage to not doubt the good we can do, courage to not worry about what other people might think, courage to not allow the magnitude of the pain and suffering to immobilise us and leave us feeling powerless— which is why each morning I ask for the strength to not waste my life on fear.
Let’s keep our faces tilted to the sun, without ever turning our backs on those who need us.