The “Ripple” EffectOne day during my third year of medical school in Boston, my friend Ed and I were walking through the corridors of University Hospital. Ed noticed that an obviously perplexed man was trying to figure out the complicated hospital directory. Ed veered off from our path and asked the man,
“May I help you?”
He then proceeded to help the visitor navigate the complex halls of the hospital. A very simple act that I, to this day, remember and mimic each time I see a similarly confused – appearing visitor to the hospital in which I work.
Periodically, I bite off a bit more than I can chew: a couple of weeks ago, I came upon a distraught couple in the hospital hallway very early one morning. I spent a good deal of time helping the elderly wheelchair-bound woman whose x-ray request had not been received by the hospital. I managed to get her scheduled for her study that day, filling an opening in the schedule.
I related all of this to Ed, who was amazed that I remembered the long-ago incident in which he showed compassion for a stranger. Ed certainly had no recollection of helping that visitor – his act that day was simply part of what he did and of who he was. Yet each time I stop to help someone, I think of Ed. Sometimes the simplest acts we do have reverberations that can last a very long time. Everything we say and everything we do can impact others.
Sometimes a kind word or deed can ripple on for years. By the same token, a careless comment may sting someone’s psyche forever. Maybe one or more people I have helped were inspired to help others. Act by simple act, word by kind word, we can impact others by what we say or do. It has been said that one person can’t change the world. Isn’t that the only way the world changes?
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Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.