The ripple effect of kintsugi living

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I look at the world around me and feel too powerless to make any difference at all. I’m so small, and the world around me is so big. How can what I do or say make any impact in any way?

When I find myself thinking that way, I remind myself of a very powerful experience I had in high school that showed me just how much difference one person can make.

I joined the marching band as a senior. I’d always wanted to be part of it, but I had been so afraid that the extra work and practices for band would be too much for me to able to keep my grades high. When I reached my senior year, however, I knew it was my last chance to join, so I took a chance and signed up anyway.

That made me a strange anomaly by being both a rookie and a senior. In fact, I was the only senior who wasn’t a drum major that year (the other two seniors in the band shared that honor).

We practiced out in an empty asphalt parking lot behind the room, and the band director drilled us from the roof of the building with a bullhorn. We were divided into sections on the field, and he would often put some of us at parade rest in formation while he concentrated on drilling other sections.

At parade rest, we were to stay still in formal position without talking. No wandering around. No sitting down. No goofing off.

My section of the band also happened to contain a couple of juniors who were the biggest troublemakers of the group. They were much more interested in having fun than in following orders of any kind.

Invariably, they quickly fell out of formation to goof off, and the rest of the section followed their lead with little hesitation. After all, as soon as one person broke position, our entire section would be required to do sit ups as punishment on the unforgiving pavement as soon as the band director returned his attention to us, so why not follow their lead?

I was different.

I was so skinny back then that the sit ups on the hard pavement with gravel interspersed in it was leaving bloody patches all up and down my spine because there was no padding to protect me at all. (Not to mention that my perfectionist self had a hard time not following orders.)

I would stay in position as long as required time and again, no matter what everyone else did. I didn’t think I could change anyone else. I was just hoping that maybe I’d get excused from the sit ups to come. (I never was, but I kept hoping.)

To my surprise, my refusal to break position slowly led to others closest to me staying in position longer. As more of us did it, it rippled outward from there. A few more here and few more there gradually chose to stay in position longer and longer and longer.

Our section eventually went from being the least obedient one to the most disciplined one by the end of the season.

The change didn’t come from lectures or guilt trips or punishments. It came from one person choosing to do the right thing over and over again.

In fact, the junior who had been the biggest troublemaker pulled me aside at the end of the school year and thanked me for my example. He said it taught him that it was time for him to start taking a leadership role as he moved into his senior year by working to make things better instead of causing trouble.

Frankly, I was shocked at how much difference my actions made in a situation where I was just one of a large group of people (and a rookie at that!), but it taught me that our actions really can impact the world around us.

When we choose healing, choose love, choose kindness, choose peace, choose forgiveness, choose compassion, choose hope instead of the (often easier) alternatives, we create similar ripples of change in the world around us. Of course, the times we choose hate or unkindness or bitterness or revenge or grudges, we equally make ripples that way too.

We seldom see them as clearly as I could see the (eventual) impact of my choices that year on the marching band field, but we nevertheless are influencing the world around us with every choice, every action, and every word.

That’s why choosing a kintsugi life matters so much. We’re not just choosing to heal and find the gold in our scars for ourselves, we are also choosing the kind of ripples of change we spread in the world around us.

We gold we discover in our scars is as much a gift for the people around us as it is for ourselves.

As you consider the influence your choices have on the world around us, how does that change what choices you might make right now about your own healing or attitude or responses to life and people and situations around you?

What influence do you most want to ripple outward from your life? What can you do to increase those desired ripples?

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