If I am a pebble, what type should I be?
The Encouragement Manifesto (Part 10)
When we ran a small business, there were some principles at the heart of it. A code of behaviour. It was owner-run; just the two of us. So the way we worked, who we were, was never written down as such. It was in our hearts. We are pretty sure it was clear to our customers who we were and what was important to us. We worked hard to be consistent, to celebrate others and to stay positive. Our business was built on the successes and strengths of others; kindness and generosity were keystones; we talked about value, not price and that allowed us to find our audience. We gathered up and shared inspiring stories and we sought to be a pebble in the pond, creating ripples. If we’d captured this at the time, we’d have called it The Encouragement Manifesto. Recently we decided to just write it down. We asked some folk we trust and who live and work in the same way, to interpret the 10 principles in their own words.
Be the Pebble in the Pond
by Stefan Powell
The 10th and final element of The Encouragement Manifesto is brilliantly put; “Be the pebble in the pond … start the ripples”.
It’s a phrase with the potential to save us from the feeling that we have to scale mountains, leap tall buildings or indeed to emulate Moses in parting the sea to make a difference and deliver real change. For me, it represents relief.
I’m not sure how you feel, I wouldn’t want to second guess it, but I’d say that — if we let it — much of our culture now pushes us so hard that even the most driven of us eventually becomes overwhelmed by ‘trying to change the world’ and by trying to ‘push back the seas’.
For most of us it is difficult enough standing up against a bank and their charging regime or an insurer who has looked for reasons not to settle, rather than to pay out; let alone trying to battle the political, social and economic shackles placed around all of us.
But no matter the size of the task it is possible to make a difference and to be a pebble creating ripples; which in turn touches someone else who might take the ‘ripple baton’ onwards.
Thankfully, we might say, there is no need to wait until you feel almighty, like a tsunami. Instead you can deliver small actions with bigger knock on consequences straight away.
Take Claudette Colvin, for example.
Not as widely recognised as fellow black American activist Rosa Parks but known as the first black person (or ‘pebble’) to create a ‘ripple’ in the ‘pond’ of segregation via her legal challenge to the bus companies in 1950s America.
Disgusted by a regime that segregated black and white people using the bus (amongst so many other elements), Claudette took a significant stand by refusing to give up her seat to a white woman and in turn attempting to legally challenge the bus companies.
Largely forgotten, because she (allegedly) wasn’t the ‘poster girl’ the civil rights movement wanted — she did create the ‘ripple’ which gave power to the wave ridden by Rosa Parks who went further when she gained a Supreme Court ruling forcing the city of Montgomery to desegregate its buses. She in turn, created a ripple which is directly credited with helping to catalyse the black civil rights movement in America.
Now, of course we can’t all be responsible for bringing about cultural change that directly, but we all have the capacity to be a ‘Claudette Colvin’ by making a stand for what we believe in — for what might in turn inspire others to drive ‘waves’ against larger ‘coastlines’.
In my mind, and based upon experience, there are those with a deeply seated internal compass or ‘faith’ which drives them to act purposefully.
For us mere mortals it helps to identify what type of ‘pebble’ you want to be and ideally which ‘pond’ you wish to cause ‘ripples’ in and where possible, the impact of the ripple you wish to see.
Here’s a poem of metaphors that have helped us in building our coffee house.
I hope they help spark thoughts for you too.
If I am a pebble which type should I be?
Should I be a lover or a fighter or both, rolling free.
If I am a pebble which way should I roll?
Should I roll left or roll right or down the middle; a path of my own.
If I am a pebble from how high should I drop?
Should I create ripples in water or waves high as mountain tops?
If I am a pebble how deep should I fall?
Should I sink into the silt or stand tall on the pond floor.
If I choose a pond; which pond should it be?
Should I pool on the plastics that pollute and float in our seas?
If I choose a pond for whom should I flood?
Should I rise against the corporations who congest our minds; cover our world in black soot?
If I choose a pond against which banks should I wash? No
Should I rally against the disease of profiteering; a light to a moth.
If I create a ripple how big should it be?
Should it be a ripple in a river or a tsunami at sea?
If I create a ripple where should I swell?
Should I swell at the door of the first world or fight the cause of the third world who have less under their spell.
If I create a ripple for whom should it be?
Should I inspire the mass of our people or our leaders, to change; act differently?
If I were a pebble creating a ripple in a pond I’d work out what I was, where I was (going) and find my community to be a part of and then I’d bring them along.
When we set up our coffee house — The Freshwater Coffee House — we defined our pond, our pebble and the ripple we wished to be — we had to think long and hard over it; like many intended ripples we created waves which exceeded our own expectations — but more of that another time.
In the meantime;
… maybe in that order; maybe ripple first.
It’s up to you but please make a conscious choice.