Do you ever think about the number of choices we make everyday? Perhaps we don’t think much about it. Maybe we should. I contend that every single choice we make has a ripple effect. That ripple can be positive or negative.
Recently, I was having dinner with a friend who is a teacher. As it turned out our server was a past student. He gave us an update on what he had been doing since graduation. Before leaving he shared one of his best memories of high school. He came to my friend’s class and she told him he did not look well. He confirmed he didn’t. During class he put his head down and subsequently fell asleep. When he awoke he was surprised to find it was the next period and a different class of students surrounded him. My friend told him he was sick and needed to go to the nurse so he could go home. He told us he couldn’t believe that she had allowed him to sleep in class and not be in trouble. It was the nicest thing a teacher ever did for him.
As he left the table my friend said, of all the things I do for students, I am remembered for letting someone sleep during class when he was sick. I said what better way is there to be remembered than as caring and kind. A choice. A ripple that was felt years later.
Last night I was at a high school basketball game. I heard someone call my name. I turned and recognized one of my students (I do not know him well, in fact, I do not know his name). He had a money in his hand and asked if I had $2. I thought he may have wanted something from concessions and did not have enough money. I said I might and turned to check when I remembered I did not have my purse. I told him and said what do you need? He didn’t have enough money to get into the game. I was going to my car to get the money when the person working the gate overheard us talking. She took half the entry fee and let him into the game. As she stamped his hand she said, I just want you to remember this, when you get a chance to help someone that is short on money in the future, I want you to do it. A choice in hopes of creating a ripple.
As for me I felt happy. I must have made choices with my interactions with students that gave this one the confidence to ask me for help, even if it was just $2. A simple situation such as this makes me feel that I am getting it right. I know it is impossible for one principal to have a personal relationship with 2,000 students. The choices I make each and everyday when interacting with them create ripples.
It is the unintended consequences of choices, the simplest of choices, made on a daily basis that have the greatest ripple effect on those around us, and therefore, ourselves. It is the smallest of pebbles dropped in the water, again and again, rather than a onetime boulder, that ultimately define our impact. The best part? We have a lifetime of pebbles to choose from. If we choose the wrong one we get another chance to get it right. If we have the awareness to do so.