My six year old told me: “Dad, ideas are like magic. They’re better than the fake magic.” (For a time she was greatly enamored of magic and magicians, after watching the old Peanuts TV special where Snoopy checks a magic book out of the library and uses it to do “real magic,” including turning Charlie Brown invisible. But upon discovering that such magic exists only in cartoons, and that real life magicians only do tricks with smoke and mirrors—“fake magic”—she was not amused.)
And the idea that has been working magic in my life lately is: watch where my pebble falls. Attend to the ripples I’m sending out into the world.
The news has been so bad for so long, on all fronts, that it’s been kind of depressing. It’s like we’re watching the world unravel before our eyes. And worst, no one seems to care. No one seems to be willing to even try to do anything about it.
It was getting me down, and I was talking to my Mom about how disheartening it all is, when she suggested I try focusing on “where my own pebble falls.” Instead of letting things that are totally out of my control weigh on me, she recommended concentrating on what I do have control over: my own actions and words and the ripples that I am sending out into the world.
As soon as she said it, I knew she was right. Right now I’m a stay-at-home Dad and the primary caregiver raising four kids aged six and under. That’s a big job, more than enough to absorb all my time, energy, and creativity, and then some. And the work of raising kids has an enormous impact on the world and the future. If I can do my job well in creating a home of joy and love for these kids, and raising them to be Christians ready to face a world of lions, that will be no small accomplishment.
Attending to where my own pebble falls also extends beyond my immediate family. It includes all the people I encounter every day, whether in person or on the phone or in e-mail or Facebook or anywhere else. It encompasses how I vote, spend my money, and a thousand other things large and small that come up in the ordinary course of life. Just consider the impact even a smile from a stranger can have. Everyone has had the experience of a lousy day that’s turned around by a friendly smile from someone passed on the street. Conversely, a scowl from a passing stranger can make that little bit of your day sour, even if everything else is going great.
Those ripples we generate and send out into the cosmos from each of the points where our own little pebbles drop is what we can do something about. That’s what we have to work with. “The rest,” Mom said, “you pray about.”
Work and pray. Work at our ripples, pray about the rest of the ocean.
So I got myself a colorful pebble, my “magic idea pebble,” that I put on my windowsill above the sink where I see it all day long as I’m doing dishes and filling bottles and getting a sponge wet to clean-up the latest spill.
I also made myself a sign at Café Press for those times a more robust reminder, spelled out clear and bold before my eyes, is needed to cut through the clamor and distraction of a busy world.
And as the Bible tells us: “A great number of wise men is the safety of the world . . .” Wis 6, 24. So it may just be that the only answer to the big problems is in many small solutions: in all the little, individual pebbles attending to where they fall and the ripples they create—and praying, praying, praying!
Copyright 2015 by Jake Frost
Image/art work by Jake Frost. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Jake Frost is an attorney, husband, and father of four grade-school aged kids. He’s the author of five books: Catholic Dad: (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family, and Fatherhood; Catholic Dad 2: More (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family, and Fatherhood; From Dust to Stars: Poems by Jake Frost; Victory! Poems by Jake Frost; and a children’s book he also illustrated called The Happy Jar.