Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s “Ripple of Hope” speech, given at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He said:
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
(Happily, language has evolved to be more inclusive! That is not the point of this post, however.)
This speech grabbed my attention because of the image of the tiny ripples of hope crossing each other, building energy and becoming a current which can sweep down walls of oppression. What walls of oppression do I hope will fall?
Too big a question!
Bobby Kennedy was speaking not only at Cape Town but on the world stage and for posterity. He operated at such levels. I don’t. Sitting here, in my wheelchair, I will have little effect on the “mightiest walls.” still, my little ripples have effects.
What ripples am I sending? What ripples do I want to send?
Unfortunately, when I am tired and/or in pain, I fear I am sending ripples of orneriness… That is not who I want to be! I want to be kind – inside and out! I am best at that when I slow down and take time to notice how I’m feeling and to pay attention to the other person. What was my formula? ALTAR: A= Arrive, L= Listen, T= Touch, A= Affirm, R= Revere. That’s who I want to be! I want to love large.
I want to notice the beauty of the world and respond to it. I want to enjoy each of my senses. I get trapped in my head, distracted by my thoughts (and sometimes my monster mind). When I moved into sensory awareness, then I also become present to this moment. In this moment, I am not afraid. I want to celebrate beauty.
Recognizing the sacredness of life – the miracles that can be found in the person standing next to me, the beauty that surrounds us, the intricacies of our existence – that plunges me into joy. I want to choose joy.
I believe that when I mess up – and I will – I can remember who I want to be, give myself a fresh start and begin again.
Those are the ripples I want to send. What about you? What ripples do you want to send?
I have been inspired by the quote. I remember when I first heard it back in 1989 or 1990. A friend and fellow co-worker at the Greenpeace Minneapolis office shared it with me. He had it taped to his clipboard.
I am always grateful for those who show up, day after day, to work on the big challenges (like the environment). Quotes like these help keep us going when change seems slow in coming.