This I Believe

Ken - Pownal, Vermont
Entered on May 17, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Small Ripples Across a Big Pond

I believe in people who dream and then work hard all their lives to make those dreams come true. Such people influence those around them, sometimes never knowing they did so. I call this the theory of ripples: that the actions of a person can spread like ripples on still water created by a dropped stone.

My wife and I traveled from our home in Pownal, Vermont to Galway, Ireland a few years ago. My memories of the trip are vivid and pleasurable, and mostly true. The visit included Easter Sunday, so we searched for a church to attend but we are not Catholic so our religious options were few. We found one, a beautiful stone church in a not-so beautiful warehouse district. Its sign read “United Methodist Presbyterian.”

Inside was the Rev. Sahr Yambasu, a dark black man with a crystal clear voice and an unidentifiable accent. His congregation was diverse, but his message clear.

He preached about the life and death of the “Queen Mum” of England, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, who died quietly that week after a 101-year lifetime of national duty and personal leisure. He also preached about the life and death of a local young man, a life wasted away by years of drug addiction, an unclaimed body found floating in the bay. He preached about the value of life, every life, the great and the small.

The sermon, and the Reverend, so touched us that when we returned home with an unspent 50 Euro note, we donated it to the church the next Christmas. So started a three-year relationship where we sent 50 euros and a note and we received simple, eloquent letters of thanks.

In those letters he talked about his congregation, with about 17 different nationalities from about 6 different Christian traditions; about one Christmas when his home hosted 43 asylum seekers, refugees and students away from home. He told us about the trials and small victories, never asked for anything, and always thanked us for what we gave.

Two years ago, we sent our 50 Euro but no letter came. I searched the Internet and found that Rev. Yambasu had been transferred to another church, in another part of the world, and we lost touch. But we will ever forget the day we spent with him, or the few short letters we shared.

Some people drop huge, grand stones into the water of the world. They become known in legend, and history books, and the ripples of their lives cross huge distances, across oceans and across time. Other people, however, have only small stones to drop into the water. But they are perfect stones; and in some hearts and minds, they create very strong ripples – waves, in fact.

I believe the ripples of a perfect little stone, when you listen and watch, can cross large ponds, even great oceans. I believe that one of those ripples washed over me that Easter day in Galway.