When Ripples Have Ripples

Trust the ripples.”  That’s a teaching I’ve embodied from years of involvement with ServiceSpace.

The gist of ripple-trusting (or is it the gift of ripple-trusting?) is this:  Do small acts of kindness.  Recognize each tiny act matters.  Know that kind acts inspire other kind acts.  Trust that every kindness, no matter how small, can ripple around the world to magnify and expand.

When I returned from India, I needed to Ripple Big.  I was homesick for the grace-infusion I experienced there.  The antidote for my homesickness was kindness.  So I served where I could. I rippled where possible.  I talked about rippling in church

With this additional focus on ripples, I was privileged to see that ripples have ripples.

Here’s an example:

Last week, Sue sent me an email.  Sue attends our Spiritual Center, where she is active as a writer, speaker, speech coach, ministry leader, and more.  She has a big heart and a knack for calling forth blessings.  Sue wrote:

How I Ended Up Buying Ice Cream for 4 Wet Guys in Saffron Robes

Today I had the day off and the world was my oyster. I had been reading some of your blog posts and thinking about Nipun and you and India, and how it had all affected us in so many ways. I thought “I should do an act of kindness.”

I went down to the harbor to get my planner in order for the next few months. I got a latte and sat outside, watching the water and the people and the birds.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something unusual – guys wearing saffron robes heading into the ice cream store. I had no idea how many of them there were, but I knew what my act of kindness was going to be. I was going to buy monks ice cream! 

I raced down to the ice cream store and found them deep in the decision-making process. Their friend, Arjay, talked to me. He said they were not monks but Hindu priests, fresh back in the US from training in India. They had been kayaking and their robes were all wet.

Arjay was delighted that I was buying ice cream and asked about my spiritual path and I told him about VCSL and your travels to India.

He ran out to his car and got me chocolates – he said a tradition in India is to give sweets when you meet someone, to leave a sweet impression. He also gave me a brochure about their temple and invited me to visit.

The ripples of Service Space continue out and back. 

Sue Davis

Sue’s ripples brought me joy.  Because what really happened?  Something rippled to Sue to inspire ice-cream action.  Something inevitably will ripple through the “four wet guys.”  They will pay it forward.  Through all of us, a quiet grace will infiltrate the world.

What an honor it is to participate in a life changing, hope inspiring path, especially now….




We may face big problems – in our lives, in our country, in our world.

But we can remember, underneath all adversity exists the undertow of the kind.  Beside conflict and division, people do the work of oneness.  When tragic greed or selfishness grabs our attention, some good soul buys ice cream for strangers….

And this is what counts, this is “the real.”  Not the adversity, not the conflict, not the news stories that compete for ratings – but the quiet work of ordinary people enacting the narrative of Oneness.

How will you participate?  Will you give Sue’s ripples ripples?  Will you do an act of kindness inspired by her action?  Will you write about it in the comments section so that others may ripple by means of your ripples? 

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Rev. Bonnie scaling the wall – photo by Mandy Len Catron

There are man hands on my bottom.

This phrase floated through my mind.  I watched the words like a subtitle in a foreign movie….and I laughed.

It was the kite festival in Ahmedabad.   A group of beautiful sari-clad women poised on a roof summoned me and others to climb up a wall to join their dance-party.

I said yes.

Scaling the wall was more challenging than it looked.  So I got an enthusiastic boost from several men behind mevirtual strangers…. They put their man hands on my bottom and pushed me up.

This was peculiar, because the culture of Ahmedabad feels proper to me.  The women dress modestly.   Men and women both tend to be well covered.  The men seem respectful and mindful of boundaries.  Of course, I’m generalizing; but I remember standing with Nipun one time when he and Jayeshbhai presented some young Wisdom Crafts women with beautifully woven shawls.  I started to leave and Nipun whispered, “Can you please stay with us and anchor the feminine presence?”

“Of course.” I said.  It was the kind thing to do.  It conveyed a level of respect and safety.

Now, climbing over a wall, with man hands on my bottom, I marveled at my predicament and laughed with delight.

If only my church could see me now, I thought.  “….There goes our Reverend Bonnie, up over a crumbling white wall, shoved from behind and hauled from above….Look at the man hands on her bottom.  Look at the man hands pulling her up and over.  Seriously, she must really want to dance.” 

I did want to dance, badly.  Enough to suffer the indignity of being shoved and hauled over a rough wall.  Enough to see that the shoving and hauling was a delightful dance in itself. 

Photo by Cherie Montoya

And I laughed because it was so bizarre; I laughed because the man hands conveyed only care and respect.  I felt the man hands’ sub-text, the message I knew they wanted us all to understand: “Get her over the wall, boys….We don’t want to drop the old girl, not on our watch….”  

I love looking back on that moment where purity befriended impropriety.

Shakespeare wrote, “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”  I think he meant that our lives are defined by our thinking, our perceptions.  And our actions are most certainly defined by our intentions.

I think about my proper intentions.  The ones I’ve held forever.  All the stories I’ve saved up over the years, like a bank account:  don’t talk to strangers, always meet the needs of others, be serious, get ahead; don’t touch bottoms….  I wonder how these intentions have shaped my actions.  I wonder if these are absolute truths that dictate how I should live my life from now on.

None of these are absolutely bad.  None are absolutely good.  It’s up to me to re-evaluate — and wherever possible to radicalize — radicalize my intentions into new love that propels me beyond my current conditioning and understanding.    

Purity seems to be the key.   When intention shifts from getting to giving, from fear to love – we can part from what we learned about propriety.  Man hands on a bottom move from improper to pure.  We can talk to strangers.  We can say no or yes from an authentic place.  We become safe in our holy intent and we dance, more joyfully than ever before.


Is there any place in your life where you feel called to re-evaluate and radicalize your intentions?  Where do you “intend” from a place of fear?  What might a purification of intention look like to you? 


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Timeless Time

Drawing Hands by M.C. Escher

Albert Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”  I believe that’s true….

I wrote in an earlier post that my first trip to India prepared me for this trip.  The imminent death of my beloved dog Stella anchored me in a deeper embodiment of Absolute Reality.


In the “Stella posts,” I also wondered if perhaps the future knows the past – some future intention for this 2018 Gandhi 3.0 experience orchestrated the dying details of the 2013 trip….because time is timeless.

My friendship with Nipun and life-changing ServiceSpace began in timeless time.

It started with the church’s need to refurbish the room where we hold 12-step meetings.  The room was an embarrassment.  Greying white paint chipped off in flakes, showing ancient yellow underneath.  Dusty fluorescent bulbs provided faltering lighting.  The stained rose-colored carpet smelled like a swamp thing.

One day, I had an idea.  I knew someone who knew Wayne Dyer, so I decided to get his contact information and invite him to come and speak at our church.  I thought “That will raise the 50K we need for repairs.”

Wayne Dyer said no.  He was out of our league.

Then someone introduced me to Nipun via a transcript of a commencement address he gave at U-Penn.  Nipun wrote:

“I want to close with a story about my great grandfather.  He was a man of little wealth who still managed to give every single day of his life.  Each morning, he had a ritual of going on a walk — and as he walked, he diligently fed the ant hills along his path with small pinches of wheat flour.  Now that is an act of micro generosity so small that it might seem utterly negligible, in the grand scheme of the universe.  How does it matter?  It matters in that it changed him inside.  And my great grandfather’s goodness shaped the worldview of my grandparents who in turn influenced that of their children — my parents.   Today those ants and the ant hills are gone, but my great grandpa’s spirit is very much embedded in all my actions and their future ripples. It is precisely these small, often invisible, acts of inner transformation that mold the stuff of our being, and bend the arc of our shared destiny.”

Nipun asks us to trust the ripples. 

I read the transcript, and I knew that anyone who could write so lovingly about picnic pests had to be unique.  He had me at ants.   I invited him to come and speak at our church.  Nipun, who speaks all over the world, said yes.  His visit changed the trajectory of my ministry, my church, and my life.

And I wonder about Cause and Effect.

Did a smelly room create the need for a guest speaker or did a guest speaker beyond my wildest dreams reach back and create a smelly room?

Did ants lead to a future ministry of epic kindness, or did the ministry of kindness create ants in need of wheat flour to tempt the helpful actions of an elderly gentleman?

And what caused a life-changing trip to India?  Was I always meant to go?  Did the future create all the tiny past steps that made it happen?

All I know is that I don’t know.  And when I don’t know, I have to trust.

I trust that time is an illusion – a relative concept created by us to make sense of our lives.  I trust that Cause and Effect are a tangled hierarchy, one hand draws the other.  I trust that the things I call bad or disappointing – a smelly room, a desperate plan, rejection from a famous speaker –these “bad” things held under the scrutiny of timeless eternity are good things.

Future potentialities beckon to us.  Just as the past shapes the future, the future shapes the past.  Somehow it’s all held in an arc of never ending love, as the ripples ripple forward and back.

How have you made sense of disappointment under the “scrutiny of eternity?”  Have you ever observed the future influencing the past?  How might the mutuality of past and future influence how you live in this moment?

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