The ripple effect

My Patient Husband had an offsite meeting which involved folks from his previous job as well as his current job. One woman from his previous job flagged him down and said, “Since you were involved in all the other important changes in my life, I wanted to show you this!” And she pulled out a photo of a baby.

My Patient Husband exclaimed, “I had nothing to do with that!” and she looked startled, then said, “Oh, no, of course not. I just wanted you to see her.”

This led to some joking between me and him (after he related it to me that night) about how I was pretty sure he’d been home every night around the time that baby became more than just a gleam in Mom’s eye. But the more interesting part, to me, was the first half of her sentence, that he’d been part of all the major changes in her life.

He’d hired her. That’s the first bit: his previous employer used to send him on recruiting trips, and he’d interviewed her, then recommended her to the hiring board and advocated for her to get the job. ¬†A few years later, he was about to go on another recruiting trip when circumstances forced him to change his plans; he asked a coworker to take his place. She was the second recruiter on the trip, and she ended up marrying the coworker my husband had asked to substitute.

And here’s where I began to think: there was no plan on my husband’s part to “change anyone’s life.” He was doing his job. He had to recruit individuals for the company; he had to ask someone to take his place. And yet for this other person, the decisions my husband was making led her to benefits she wouldn’t have anticipated: a job where she’s advanced to a prestigious position, and a husband, and now a baby.

I’ve said this before on the blog, but we don’t know, we simply do not and cannot know, how our actions affect everyone around us. We can’t anticipate the ripples, and I believe that’s where God comes into play. As long as we’re not deliberately countering God’s will for our lives, we were meant to be here, in a place where God knows the ripples of our passage are going to spread out and touch this person and that person and that other person, bringing about goodness we couldn’t predict in advance. And of course we can work with it, and cooperate, but for the most part it’s beyond our control, and I like to think of that part as grace.


  1. Normandie

    Jane, that’s such a true statement. I love getting letters years after the fact, telling me what an impact I had in that person’s life. And I’d never had a clue.

    1. philangelus

      My favorite rejection letter was on a very old version of An Arrow In Flight, where the editor began the two-page handwritten letter with “I’m afraid we can’t publish your novel, but let me tell you how it’s impacted my life.”

      I thought, hey, that’s pretty cool! The editor and I actually wrote back and forth a few times (about non-book stuff) before life called her to other things.

  2. mgudlewski

    Truer than true!