Saturday, June 3, 2017

Inch One Hundred Seventy-Three: Ripple Effect

My brother Mark recently posted a long commentary on Facebook that caught my attention. After ranting about the anger and rage in the world, he wrote:

Would it be so hard to have some compassion or show some empathy towards someone? Put yourself in their shoes for a little bit. Look at their situation. We are all guilty of not doing this. You can affect your little part of the world and maybe, just maybe help someone in the process. The person you affect may help someone else. It is like when you throw a pebble in the water and you watch the ripple spread. 
Tomorrow let us be the starting point, the pebble so to speak. See if you can make the world a better place.

Music to my ears.

At Juvenile Court, we (coworkers and I) facilitate a class called Victims Awareness. We spend a lot of time working on concepts of control and impact.

We pose them this problem: What can you control? What can you not control? We write their responses on the room's whiteboard. Control? "My anger." "My choices." "My reactions." "Who I hang out with." Not control? "Other peoples' choices." "Other peoples' actions." "What someone says about me." 

Lively discussions accompany some of the selections. 

We discuss control after we take the juveniles through the ripple effect. The ripple effect is simply the concept that the choices you make almost always have consequences that you may not have thought of at the time. Like a rock tossed in a pond, your actions—good or otherwise—set in motion a series of ripples that affect others. One of our juveniles' tasks is to parse on a chart the impact of their offenses: who was affected, how they were affected. Here is a typical ripple: my mom was affected when I shoplifted because she had to come to court with me. Oh, and that impacted her employer because she could not work that day. And that impacted her paycheck because she lost a day of work.

Ripple effect, choices, what can I control, what can I not control. They all come together in the class. Often there is a moment, usually midway through the five weeks of class, where I see the lightbulb come on in the juvenile's eyes.


When I read Mark's post, I immediately thought of our kids. When we do the ripple effect exercise using their offenses, we follow that up with an exercise in paying it forward. The inverse of a negative ripple effect is doing something positive: a random act of kindness. We challenge our juveniles to find a way to do such an act before the next class. We emphasize it doesn't have to be BIG, it doesn't have to cost money. They report back: I helped my grandma clean her house, I bought my friend lunch at the school cafeteria because he was out of money, I helped someone at the grocery store load groceries. Little ripples of good deeds. 

We also have our juveniles weekly capture on paper a good choice and a poor choice. As the class continues, the good choices move from "I studied for a test" to "I walked away from arguing with my mom" or "I did not punch the kid calling me names." Our youth are reflecting on their control, and starting, slowly, to weave that reflection into their lives.  More ripples, more realizations that there are real choices even when you are only 15. 

My brother got it right when he wrote "the person you affect may affect someone else... [Be] the pebble so to speak." 

I'm stepping away from facilitating the Victims class. We are just finishing a sequence and this one will likely be my last one. My job has changed in ways that make facilitating harder to work into my hours and the later day (we run class until 5:30, followed by a debriefing) takes a bigger toll on my health and energy than it used to.

I will miss the kids. I will miss the lightbulb moments. 

And I will watch for the ripples. 


Out My window said...

You have done so much good and are such an inspiration to me. Thank you.

Laurie said...

It is so hopeful to know this work is being done with young ones. The light bulb of knowing our choices make all the difference in our lives, and often other lives is a powerful one. May the ripples of your work come around to bless you.

Ellen Rosentreter said...

April, I am sure there are ripples of your teachings and your example that you are unaware of also. You are such a force for good, a positive pebble yourself.