I love the combination of a blue sky layered with clouds. Saturday was one of those days.

My husband and I took a short drive to a nearby peach orchard and store. Fresh peaches (and peach ice cream from the store) sounded like a perfect treat on a hot summer day. Yet, on the short thirty-minute drive, the sky had my full attention.

I noticed clouds moving in front of and behind one another. One cloud providing shade for the earth, but also for other clouds. Casting shadows in surprising places.

Of course, the sun plays a role in this phenomenon. It may be hidden from direct view, but its presence is undeniable. Somehow, its rays cause some clouds to glow. Allowing the creation of shadows.

Another key player-the wind. Its speed and direction cause the clouds to move-usually incrementally to our eyes. But if we intentionally watch, we can see the shifts.

Maybe more powerful, we can feel the shifts. A drastic change in heat felt as they pass over us. The relief, welcomed, even if temporary.

Now picture those clouds as people. Some gleaming, others providing shelter, and others being tossed about. Yet, all still human beings. All moving. Weaving in and out of life’s storms.

Some days I’m the one in need of shelter. And once I have gracefully accepted that provision of love, then I’m able to offer that same love. And so it goes-infinite circles of need, acceptance, compassion, love. As we help each other navigate this crazy world through beautiful layers.

Ripple Effect

Our district, Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK, currently has four sites working daily to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for children in our community. In one week, over 70,000 meals were distributed. Today marks the end of week four.

It takes a massive amount of work for this to happen. There are so many people behind the scenes planning, organizing, preparing for this need. And many other volunteers step in to help with distribution.

Whether they realize it or not, those working in the background are creating ripples. Not just a pebble tossed into a pond, more like a boulder lobbed from the shore. All of them working together to create a lasting, powerful ripple effect.

Just imagine. A family drives through the line. They receive enough food to feed their children for that day. And they can do the same thing the next day. Actually, every day, Monday through Friday.

The parents and children realize how much their school community cares for them. They share their experience with friends and extended family. A tiny glimmer of hope in an unsettling time.

No, this is not the answer to all of the problems families are currently facing. Many are dealing with job loss, not to mention isolation. But not having enough food? I cannot imagine the fear that brings.

I hope it is these kinds of things we will remember when this time has passed. People recognizing a need and doing whatever it takes to fill that need. People working tirelessly with no thought of their own recognition.

I hope these difficult times remind us to stop and look around. To see acts of kindness. And to recognize each as a ripple with the ability to become a wave.

A wave of compassion that has the power to wash over us all.

A ripple effect with endless possibilities for positively impacting the future.

The Spotlight

Prior to teaching elementary music, I was a special education teacher.  Because of that experience,  preparing my students for our school’s Special Olympics assembly held an important place in my heart.  The entire student body would be singing a song celebrating our Olympians, and I wanted to make sure they understood the significance.  This was an opportunity for them to shine a spotlight on their amazing peers, peers who were often left out.  We discussed how each of us was special and had something to offer no matter our differences. During one discussion a hand went up, “You mean, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!”  Yes!  As the conversation continued, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a memory of doing just that when I was teaching special education.  I proceeded to share the following story:

One day a new student came to my class.  He was non-verbal, had vision and hearing impairments, severe balance and mobility issues, and only had one arm.  The first time I saw him, I cried.  How could I possibly reach this child? Certainly I was not experienced enough.  I felt helpless. And then one day a college student volunteer was playing with my other students on the playground.  As we lined up to come inside, He began carefully lifting each child so they could touch the ceiling.  Each waited their turn, laughing as they were raised high up in the air.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my new little friend hobbling toward the college student.  He stopped in front of our visitor, and stretched his one little arm up as high as he could reach as if to say, “My turn, my turn!”  Squeals of pure joy came as he had his turn to touch that otherwise unreachable goal.  In that moment, this precious child was in the spotlight. 

As I finished my story, the realization that I had judged this sweet little book by his cover brought unstoppable tears.  My voice cracked as I finished sharing with my students, and I watched their expressions change from curiosity and confusion to understanding and compassion.  My unplanned confession brought new clarity and purpose for our assembly song preparation.  But more importantly it encouraged those familiar with being in the spotlight to look for opportunities to shine the spotlight on those not so familiar.