In August of 2013, I wrote a series of posts about Wingmaker Arts Collaborative.

Wingmaker Art Collaborative artists L-R: Karon Luddy, Jennifer Halls, Rebecca Haworth. Missing is Caroline Coolidge Brown

Wingmakers was 4 women artists who shared studio space, nurtured each other’s creative energy, created interesting and beautiful works of art, and led workshops.  My posts included an overview of the Collaborative, and an interview and photo of each individual artist. (You can still access them from my history sidebar.) I knew two of the women, but one I met for the first time was Jennifer Halls.    

Jennifer and I connected immediately. We share an Ohio background and we both have wild crazy natural curls. (Natural curlies understand each other.) There was also that sense of immediate comfort, as if we’d known each other forever, family that was meeting for the first time.

Jennifer and I ran into each once in a while after that, then a little over a year ago she contacted me and asked permission to use the photo I’d taken of her, for a project she was working on. Of course I said yes. I didn’t know what the project was, but the picture was of her – she had a right to use it. So, I sent the photo . . . and completely forgot about it. Early last year Jennifer emailed again asking for my mailing address. She had ‘a little something’ for me. And this is what came in the mail. Well, the bottom one did. I already had the top one.

Jennifer had written a book, The Runes Workshop, in 2011 and the book had just been translated into Spanish. I was so excited for her. Then I read her note and looked on the back of the book. She’d used the photo I’d taken as her author photo. I think you’ll agree she’s a beautiful woman.

Like Jennifer, I can’t speak Spanish either, but I’m still tickled that my photo was used, and she gave me credit! But the thing that really stood out to me was how it all happened, the ripple effect, how one simple act echoed over the years. I’d taken this photo years earlier and tucked it away (I was relieved I could find it!), how it became Jennifer’s favorite photo of herself – I captured her spirit, I think – and it ended up on a book that’s now available worldwide. Quite an unexpected journey for a photo that was simply part of a blog post that was read by a handful of people.

The experience made me think of how often we do or say things without giving them a second thought– the times we smile at or hold the door open for a stranger, or we pick up a piece of trash while on a walk– and we never know the ripple effects. Hubby gets a kick out of how, here in the South, as we meet cars going in the opposite direction, the drivers more often than not wave. The gesture makes us smile and we pass it along as we go down the road.  

This post was originally intended to be about Jennifer’s book and how during this pandemic there have been so many simple acts of kindness and compassion, and that people will never know how those gestures lifted spirits, made someone’s day, how the gestures and moods were passed along from one person to the next. I loved seeing stories like the one about the couple who postponed their wedding reception but they were stuck with all these soft drinks, so they left them on their porch and added snacks for the delivery guys and mail carriers.

Then last Wednesday a mob stormed our Capitol, and the idea of actions, consequences, and ripple effects became a more somber and heavier lesson.

Ages ago when I was a youth minister, I used the following as a discussion starter:

A teenager is contemplating suicide and has decided today is the day. She’s bargained with herself that while walking to the bridge where she’ll jump, if just one person smiles, makes eye contact, just acknowledges her presence, she won’t go through with it. If you’re the person she passes, does she jump?

The exercise had several points, one being how a simple act of connection reverberates in ways we may never know. Another is that those reverberations, like an earthquake’s aftershocks, can also cause damage.

I chose not to watch the news on Wednesday or follow social media. Not out of disinterest, but because I’d feel too much and too helpless. Instead, I said a rosary for peace and healing, the only real contribution I could make.

Also, Wednesday was the Feast of the Epiphany. Earlier in the morning, my sister Lynda had sent a song, Revival’s in the Air by Bethel Music and Melissa Helser, to our other sister and me. The music has a Celtic rhythm so I was dancing in my kitchen as I listened. (I’ve not danced in my kitchen for a long time.) Part of the refrain is ‘ . . . love’s returning.’ so I had that song beating in my head and heart as the news of the Capitol unfolded. Though the song isn’t a political anthem, it seemed to be a song of hope in the midst of what was going on.

The next morning, I did journal out what I was feeling. First, I wasn’t surprised. I do believe the current White House resident has stoked these fires for over four years. The fact I wasn’t surprised saddens me. I’m also angry for so many reasons.

Yet, mostly I’m hopeful. ‘ . . . love’s returning.’ still plays like a welcome earworm, and I find myself smiling. I’m still reading stories of people going out of their way to do gracious and loving, random acts of kindness – despite the fact we’re coming up on a year since this pandemic started and we’re exhausted. I suspect years from now the ripples of these acts will still be reaching. We’ll pass along our plenty to those in need because we’ll remember what it was like to be on the receiving end. Maybe we’ll hold on to some of the practices we had to take on – like spending more time at home or enjoying simple vacations. For sure our children will not only hear our stories, they’ll have their own to tell. The work of teachers will be legendary.

In the days ahead as the repercussions from the Capitol breach play out, in the months ahead as the pandemic continues to rage, may we all search for and cause some ripples of our own. It will be in those ever-expanding circles of goodness that we’ll survive all of this.

To read more about my friend Jennifer Halls

To buy The Runes Workshop at Books-A-Million or Amazon

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2 Responses to Ripples

  1. I needed to read this today!

    • Thank you Roberta. I’m often not sure where my writing will go, if it will have any impact. This post wanted to be written, so I’m grateful it did and that it was there for you. We will get through this – and your music and poetry will help!
      ~ Kim

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