On the March 21 edition of the CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod presented a story that made me realize (again) that you can never know the ongoing impact an action might have.
Henry Colebourn was a veterinarian in Winnipeg, Canada. He was on his way to join the forces fighting in Europe during World War I. When he got off the train in a small Canadian town, he encountered a hunter who had killed a bear and was selling her cubs for $20 each. He bought a female cub and named her after his hometown.
In fact, she had such a friendly disposition, the zookeepers let children go into her enclosure to play with her. One of the children who became entranced by Winnie the bear was a boy named Christopher Robin. His father, A. A. Milne, began writing stories about Christopher and the bear, who has been known ever since as Winnie-the-Pooh. The adventures of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh have enchanted innumerable children (and adults) over the decades.
Now Lindsay Mattick has written a book entitled Finding Winnie: the True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear that tells the story of how her great-grandfather found and protected the creature that inspired the Pooh stories. As Mattick said, "That's powerful to know -- that something you do in a moment can go on to have these incredible huge ripple effects that you never could even have imagined."
I’m sure that lots of people have done lots of things that produced ripples that influenced my life. The one I’m aware of that I’m most grateful for happened right about this time of year in 1975 in a classroom at Forsyth Road School when Mrs. Key told me I should think about attending Mercer University. I not only thought about it—I did it. I found my path, my principles, my wife, and my mentor at Mercer. And it all started with a suggestion by my Creative Writing teacher.
I’m glad I know about, remember, and can be grateful for what Mrs. Key did. But there’s no telling how many other people did so many other things that ended up having an effect on me that I have no idea about. The right word spoken at the right time, the right deed done at the right moment, or the right encouragement offered on the right occasion can set events in motion that can make all the difference for someone. It might affect lots of people. It could even change history.
So, when we have the chance to do the right thing rather than the wrong thing, to speak the kind word rather than the harsh word, to offer the constructive suggestion instead of the destructive criticism, to take the high road rather than the low road, to build up rather than tear down, to promote hope rather than fear, to embrace rather than push away, and to love rather than hate, let’s do it.
You may never know what a difference it’ll make in other people’s lives. But that’s all right.
It’s enough to know that it might.
Besides, you’ll know the effect it’ll have on you.