Have you ever heard of the ripple effect? Defined as the continuing and spreading results of an event or action, we are seeing it evidenced in protests around the world sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I became aware of it in February, a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hijacked 2020—and the world—when I had the pleasure of visiting El Salvador, Central America.
While there, I spent a significant amount of time in a beach town called El Tunco. Staying with family friends who were in the process of building a hostel, I was reminded of one of the simplest joys of travelling—sharing ideas. One night over drinks, we had a deep philosophical discussion about making your mark on the world. Global issues, like economics and politics, are out of our control and often too complex to solve; however, we can make a difference in our direct sphere of influence. I heeded the lesson derived from our conversation and have been working on ways to contribute meaningfully since my return.
It started with befriending a local homeless woman—asking her about herself, what she needs, and offering my help. Then, after social distancing measures were put in place, I reached out to the Seniors Outreach and Resource Centre and expressed my interest in connecting with older adults who are struggling to attend to their basic needs during the pandemic.
The centre’s coordinator put in touch with Patricia, or Patsy as she prefers to be called, and we have been building a rapport over the last couple of months. Every Friday, Patsy tells me about how she is and if she needs any assistance. She always mentions how much our calls mean to her and how lucky she is to have me. I feel the same way. Helping Patsy fills my heart with joy, and a sense of fulfillment knowing I am impacting someone’s life in a meaningful way.
At first, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can seem daunting, but the reward is well worth it. In 2017, after 10 years of caring for my mother who has dementia, I decided I wanted to start sharing my story to shine a light on how this disease impacts the people living with it and their caregivers. It started simple enough with an email to the Alzheimer Society of Canada indicating my interest in getting involved. Since then, I have spoken on a CBC podcast, been articled in the Globe and Mail, and was featured in a national anti-stigma campaign for the Society. When someone tells me that my story resonated with them, I know being open and showing my vulnerability has paid off. I am making a meaningful impact.
Here are actionable steps you can take to create a ripple effect in your community.
Decide what cause you are passionate about.
Ask yourself: ‘What do you care about? Where can I make the greatest impact?’.
This is the first and best place to start. Whether it is a firsthand account, witnessing the struggle of a loved one, or noticing a gap that needs to be addressed—most people are driven into action by personal experience. When you are intrinsically motivated—perform an activity for its own sake and personal rewards—the task can be more enjoyable, interesting, and impactful.
Reach out and offer your assistance.
Once you decide on what is important to you, it’s time to find an organization to support that aligns with your values. Contact them through phone, email or social media, and ask if they are looking for support and how you can help. Whether it is through the gift of time, skills or a financial contribution, every effort counts.
Start sharing to inspire.
Once you begin experiencing the benefits of your efforts, share with others how it makes you feel. People are often inspired when they see others doing things they only dream of doing. Learn to initiate change for a more joyful life. The thrill of giving is infectious, and it may rouse others into action.
If the last few months have taught us anything, it is that life is sometimes simply out of our control. Instead of feeling helpless, we can stand up, assist others, and heal ourselves in the process. I encourage you to take this period of contemplation and reflection to devise ways you can directly impact your community. Implement your ideas, sit back, and marvel at the small wonders that you have a hand in creating. Do not procrastinate; Start today! It is as Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”