Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

On The Ripple Effect and Kind Words and Pebbles Mattering

“Drop a pebble in the water,
splash, and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on.
Spreading, spreading from the center to the sea,
and there is no way of telling
where the end is going to be.”

Tired. So tired. I shook my head as the allergy pill I’d taken fizzled in my stomach. “Sorry man, that’s the price for not sneezing or itching your eyelids off,” it said.  

“But the bottle said Non-Drowsy,” I said. Nothing more from the allergy pill so I chewed a Wintergreen Altoid and then ate six more. I wonder how many calories they have (10).

I passed a smiley-face balloon on the side of the road as it floated a few feet off the ground. I’d forgotten until I saw it again, but had driven by the same one yesterday — then on the other side of the road. I wondered how it’d crossed, where it’d come from, and about how toxic it’d be when withered. Did it escape a car window to tears while mom looked at the clock, swore under her breath and promised to get another one? Or was it let go with “Go! Be free!” wishes to mom’s sigh and scolding about how it’d cost $5.99?

I smiled at the balloon and thought about how connected and disconnected we are from one another. I thought about the ripple effect, helium and how each of us is made partly of stardust.


“He’s going to camp,” I said. I wasn’t even pregnant enough to be considered viable and yet I tempted fate by Googling the sleep-away summer camp I’d gone to as a kid. Each year, I couldn’t wait to reconnect with my camp-friends. Of course, leaving and waiting for letters to arrive sucked and I worried about missing out on who’d start wearing a bra and wondered whether any of the boys on my list would’ve said hi to me while waiting in the snack line at the pool.

Camp beckoned though. The horses and the sunrise hikes. The loud dining hall meals, whispers between bunk beds and craft tables and singing around the fire. Maybe that most of all.

kids in the 70s went to sleep away camp and sang songs around the fire and it was awesome and divine

I found divinity in singing around a campfire with a bunch of hippie counselors wielding love and guitars.

“We need to take him camping,” I say to my husband. “But not here, there are too many bugs.”

Each year, singing around the fire was my favorite part about camp. I still carry the songs with me, decades later (and have a stolen camp-song book to remind me of lyrics that my swiss-cheese brain threatens to forget). Some lyrics leave ripples that continue to change me even as I continue to change.

“Drop an unkind word, or careless,
a minute and it’s gone,
but there’s half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on.
Spreading, spreading,
from the center as they go,
for there is no way to stop them
once you’ve started them to flow.”

Words affect us. “Are our bodies really part stardust?” he said. We were in the car, driving home from day camp. The night before, we’d talked about how each of us has light inside, and how part of us is made from stardust and God. My son is a sensitive boy and is really hard on himself. I knew he was thinking about something that would probably take days to come all the way out.

“We are,” I said, and he told me about a boy who’d sneezed on him and how he tried to not get mad but the boy’s sneeze had food in it and it was orange and got on his arm and his shoes and probably had germs in it too.

“Well, that’s just gross,” I said, and he laughed. Relieved. “He also pushed the teacher really hard. He’s not bad though right? Even though his orange food with germs was on my arm and he pushed a teacher?” he said.

“Right, he’s not bad but his behavior was. It wasn’t nice to push the teacher… and buddy, having orange food sneezed on your arm is gross,” I said.


I talked to my step-daughter’s mom again tonight. I think about the ripple effect.

“What can we do next?” I said, not wanting to let different words out not knowing what ripples they may create. Words affect us. 


I think about the ripple effect and about the words I wrote for the 1000 Speaks blog.

“We’re heroes, friends. Each of us and all of us. We’re the ones who can choose light rather than blame, and hope for change rather than fear. Our compassion can change the world.

We choose things each day. While walking to buy coffee and breakfast sandwiches, we choose to see or not-so-much see those around us. While we look into mirrors and feel old or beautiful. When we make a choice between nesting in bed or talking to teenagers about suicide. We choose.”

I believe that. We choose. We choose to drop a pebble in the water and watch the ripples. We choose to debate or disagree with grace or cruelty. We choose what the voice inside our children’s heads will sound like.


I think about the ripples of our words. The ones I type, the ones I read, and the ones I say or hear. I think about the hate on the news and about Black Lives Matter.

I wonder how somebody like Trump ever got so far spewing hatred and bigotry. What the ripple effects from the news these days will be and how the smiley-face balloon on the side of the road will wither and never really rot because it’s made of plastic or something like it.

I think about Our Land and about how what we do in the next five minutes mattering.

About how each day and each minute we can choose to say “Bless you,” or “Fuck you.”

To ourselves. To others.

I want to be the woman and the mom who chooses “Bless you” even when I’m sneezed on with orange food.

“Drop a word of cheer and kindness,
flash and it is gone,
but there’s half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on.
Bearing hope and comfort
on each splashing, dashing wave
‘till you wouldn’t believe the volume
of the one kind word you gave.”

kristi rieger campbell finished post for finding ninee

Finish the sentence Friday writing promptThis has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “I feel the ripple effects of…”

It’s a good sentence because it can mean anything really. The ripple effect of going to Disney. The ripple effect of telling a doctor “NO EFFING WAY” or maybe even advice that continues to ring true with you. So, write about the ripple effect, or the affect it’s had on you 🙂

NOTE: The song lyrics above are from a camp song we sang that does not have an author associated with it in the book I have. Google tells me that it was written by James W. Foley but I can’t find an actual site that’s his. If you know of it, or its origin, please let me know so that I may properly link to it. 

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  • Lydia - Nice….very very nice😍July 21, 2016 – 10:12 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Hey you. Is this the first time you’ve been Lydia here? If so, me likey. Also hi. Love you.July 22, 2016 – 11:10 pmReplyCancel

  • Dana - I love that thought: what we do in the next five minutes matter. If only every human being remembered that! Your posts so often make me a little more hopeful than I was before. I think you should be president, Kristi :).July 21, 2016 – 10:20 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw Dana. Thank you. I think back to conversations I’ve had in the past, even with Tucker… and about how what I say matters so much. His teacher had lunch with him at the end of the year because he though she didn’t like him… we’re talking a lot about how you can love somebody but not agree with something they did and wowza, deep, and I feel the ripples of my own choices and what people said or didn’t say… Here’s to the next five minutes (I’m going to bed I think).
      Also? No thanks to president. I’d be way better than Trump though (but gross to the whole republican platform)July 22, 2016 – 11:19 pmReplyCancel

  • JT Walters - The best ripple effect I feel is why my son gets well and he smiles. He then comes over and gives me a really hard kiss to let me know he really loves me for taking care of him. To me being a good parent to my son according to his standards in his none verbal world is the most important thing I feel.

    Many days because he has no services still after sixteen years in floor, I feel linke we do not matter our exist. We have no stone or ripple effect….no one cares.

    As for Trump, you and all my other Democratic friends and I have many, know I do not watch tv. As a Republican I am tired of being beaten up over him when the democratic candidate has even more bad horrific baggage as my child still does not have services. I can tell everyone, your vote is yours and mine and mine is my vote.

    I wouldn’t tell anyone how to vote but I guess my right to my vote like services for my son is entitled to are not respected, either. It is hurtful.July 21, 2016 – 10:43 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Your son deserves the whole world, as do all of our sons and daughters. I love that Alex feels better and thanks you for it – you are a great mama. And um when it comes to the vote, maybe you SHOULD watch TV because for real, Trump hates our kids and us and he’s a hate-monger.July 22, 2016 – 11:22 pmReplyCancel

      • JT Walters - Well I love our kids. I think if I heard someone in public life speak hatefully about our children, it would shattered my heart in a thousand pieces. I did youtube and look for video and found the incident with 1 reporter but I have not seen anything else.

        Both the Democrats and Republicans have done it to my son. Living in the world of rare disorders is to not exist in society. Party affiliation does not matter. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) did not show up to a senate hearing about one of my son’s (Only one of the two known) rare disorders. They are senators. They are over paid millionaires so how hard can it be to show up to a senate hearing on a rare disorder that affects children in your state.

        I did read Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s pages and see nothing on either of their pages to address helping children with medical complexities. Hillary Clinton’s special needs campaign is a recycle of our current programs. Early intervention…we have that. Education…we have that. Healthcare…does not exist for children with rare disorders. Training…we have that with vocational rehabilitation so there is absolutely nothing she is offering that is better than what we currently have and in my son’s case it is nothing.

        She does not hate but does not care either. Neglect is a form of hate.

        But I truly love you and every single parent regardless of political affiliation that is a parent of a special needs child because if we don’t love our kids and each other then we are truly lost.

        In absence of anything better and given the tremendous national security leaks I can not vote for her in good faith. I don’t think she cares for anyone but herself. I am done with the Bush/Clinton Oligarchy. Affordable care Act has seriously hurt my son’s healthcare but I will not fight with another parent of a child with special needs.

        I love you, Tucker, my son, my self and every other family that knows the pain and challenges we endure in a very hard cruel world to our children from BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE!!!July 22, 2016 – 11:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Julie Jo Severson - “We choose to see or not-so-much to see.” I love that. All of this, Kristi so poignant. You are the queen of free writes and abandoning yourself to what you are truly feeling right now in the moment about the week’s topic, gross orange sneeze stuff and all. That truly is a gift to those of us reading; the authenticity that comes through in your writing is one-of-a-kind. I’m always amazed when I stop by here.July 21, 2016 – 11:12 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Gah Julie. I still can’t believe that I was too whatevered to not contribute (or try to) your anthology. I even met Christy at BlogU… anyway thank you. The gross orange sneeze thing needed to be said. My poor kid thought that he was bad for not wanting that crap on him… There’s something to be said about teaching how we can’t help it and also something about the divinity in the honesty of saying “OMG I do not want his snot with food on my body!!!”
      XOXOXOJuly 22, 2016 – 11:25 pmReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - I just couldn’t agree more, Kristi as our words and actions do have consequences and a big reason I try more often than not to think before I speak or act. So thank you for the reminder here tonight ❤️July 22, 2016 – 3:39 amReplyCancel

  • Upasna Sethi - Hey Kristi,

    Its only few days since I am practicing to disagree with grace. You have made a very important point here- We as Parents should be able to read our Kid’s minds and counsel them regularly. Nice post. I loved it how to relate kind words, compassion and Ripples.July 22, 2016 – 6:12 amReplyCancel

  • Kerri - Oh my friend, ripples upon ripples. Even if they are orange snot, or your boys sweet smile. Love this one!July 22, 2016 – 7:59 amReplyCancel

  • Kerry - Oh Kristi. Connect and disconnect, all at the same time.
    Your story about the orange stuff immediately made me think of the hair I keep hearing about on the head of your country’s possible next leader. I didn’t want my thoughts to immediately go there, to make that connection, as there are so many awful things I could then say. The trouble is, I am trying so hard to resist some of those more ugly thoughts because I am so unsettled, so afraid for not just the US, but that’s where the focus lies. I do believe in the ripple effect and if I allow the uglier thoughts I’m having to flow too freely, they could cancel out anything positive I may have otherwise let loose. I don’t want that, but how to stop the uglier ripple effects and focus on the good ones? Hmm.July 22, 2016 – 2:49 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kerry,
      The hair. It’s as bad as you’ve heard it is. For real. He’d better NOT be our next leader… I’m afraid too. Big. And I’m also a believer that we do not let our ugliest thoughts run free because they will and the ones instead of love and grace and forgiveness? They matter.
      It’s hard to pray for and hold those who are cruel to us to the light, but I’m trying. I hope it matters. I have to believe that it does.July 22, 2016 – 11:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Lewis - Ohhh I love your acknowledgement that your behaviour, your treatment of others as a parent, and your treatment of your child, is what builds the voice which will play inside their head, and contribute to their internal self. I really think that matters as a concept to hold in mind, for ALL parents.

    Kids hear things. If they hear their parent being awful to someone else, and any of those features tally, then they will realise they are also deserving of awfulness.

    Glad to read this and think about those ripples, and about how I could be more gracious.July 22, 2016 – 4:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Hillary Savoie - Kristi I’m in love with this post. I love how you managed to weave all of this together–your childhood, your mothering, the things you see–and wrap it around to the world we’re in…something that seems like a tsunami of ripples.July 23, 2016 – 1:38 amReplyCancel

  • Emily - This reminded me a lot of when I went on that writing retreat in Montana last year (you should definitely do that one of these days btw!) and at the end of the retreat, she talks about how after we are gone, she goes to the lake at the ranch and sends ripples outward on it for all of us and she had something profound to say about it, but if I try to say it here, it will come out wrong. Anyway, it was very cool. Now, you’ll have to go to that retreat in Montana to see for yourself. 🙂July 23, 2016 – 11:14 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I want to go on that retreat. Plus, I could see my mom before it so win! What a cool idea that she sent ripples for each of you once you left. I bet it was beautiful. xoxoJuly 23, 2016 – 5:09 pmReplyCancel

  • April - Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the ripple effects created by my family. It’s all there, bubbling, rippling on the inside, but outside looks fine. Sometimes it’s hard to combat.July 23, 2016 – 3:12 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Sorry to read that April. The things that ripple up inside of us are hard…we keep on keeping on but I know that feeling. I hope that you find peace to the parts that are bothering you soon. <3July 23, 2016 – 5:10 pmReplyCancel

  • K - I love this. How are you such an incredible writer?!! Your writing is so beautiful, and it captures me completely! And the sentiment is amazing. (“We choose what the voice inside our children’s heads will sound like.” – chills. SO true.) So many people seem to forget just how impactful their actions and words can be. Thank you for this incredible reminder – and thank you for using YOUR words and actions to make our world a better place. xoJuly 24, 2016 – 7:49 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw, you, Sweet Thang. Thank you. Your writing is gorgeous and beautiful you know. I’ve been thinking a lot about the voice inside Tucker’s head… when he was younger, the ABA therapy he got was focused on extremes – like when he did something we’d prefer he didn’t do, we were taught to very strongly and firmly and loudly say NO! When he did something we wanted him to do, we were taught to be overly joyous about it and totally celebrate.
      That therapy works for sure but now that he’s turned seven, I wonder about the reaction of the “NO” and whether it’s still appropriate. Anyway, I want the voice in his head (and in yours and mine too even) to be one that is kind and forgiving and full of grace. That’s a hard thing… anyway, gah I ramble. I’m SO SO SO SSO SOOOOOOO HAPPY about your successful surgery! I cried too.July 24, 2016 – 8:32 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - Me too, times a million.
    I was thinking today about how so many of us are out to spread love and kindness, and so many of us were clearly raised in a barn, or worse.July 24, 2016 – 8:30 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Yeah… I hear that. I think the worst part is that it’s way too easy to get drawn into the mindset of being raised in a barn or worse, you know? Like I think about things I’ve said when I’m really angry or hurt, and that’s easier. It’s easier to be mean back when somebody is mean to us or our kids or humans in general. It’s harder to think of them with grace and well, you know.July 24, 2016 – 8:35 pmReplyCancel

  • Lux G. - Gosh, this is so true.
    Words are so powerful. It echoes for a lifetime.July 25, 2016 – 9:29 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - They really do, don’t they? I can so remember what people said to me when I was six and seven…July 27, 2016 – 8:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Allie - Hello my friend. I never went to sleep away camp, but Audrey is begging me. I don’t know why I’m so scared to let her go. And what’s going on with your step daughter? And I wonder about Trump, too. After traveling to so many places this year, I’ve discovered that we are no longer a civil society, and the ripple effects of that terrify me.July 26, 2016 – 9:55 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw Sweets Call me and maybe consider letting her. It was one of the best things in my life… and I was shy. I’ve met Audrey and she will be fine. Swear. Call me – she should go to the camp I did??? Maybe. Gah to the civil society and ripples. I’m terrified too.July 27, 2016 – 11:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Yvonne - I have a feeling this post has created some beautiful ripples Kristi, and will go on creating more.
    I loved reading about you and Tucker’s conversation about stardust. There’s something about kids at that age that is almost magical – they have wonder and the beginning of understanding that they didn’t have when younger. (Ah, when I think about, there’s something magical about kids of any age, even 18 and almost-17 as mine are now.)

    Oh, and thank you again for your beautiful post for the #1000Speak blog!July 28, 2016 – 5:30 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Yvonne, that’s so sweet – thank you. You’re so right about kids being magical in their wonder and understanding. He’s still at an age where he believes in so much magic anyway and that we’re made partly of stardust makes perfect sense to him. And yeah, 17 and 18 is pretty wonderful too. I suppose all ages are for a parent. Even 40+ because then there are new conversations and magic.
      Also thank you for having my words on #1000Speak!! I loved writing that post!July 28, 2016 – 6:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa Moskowitz Sadikman - This message is fantastic Kristi. Your point about how we choose every single minute of every single day to be kind or cruel, to do something or stand back is so good and true and NEEDED RIGHT NOW! I love the way you weave in Tucker’s words here too and your desire to send him to camp even before he arrived. Yes to “bless you!” xoJuly 28, 2016 – 6:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Rabia @TheLiebers - Becoming a parent has made me take a much harder look at all those ripples. It’s sobering and exciting at the same time. I hope my ripples are the kind that help a large ship across the ocean rather than the kind that knock over a tiny leaf boat.July 29, 2016 – 11:04 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - OOH I love the imagery of helping a ship across the ocean rather than knocking over a tiny leaf boat.July 29, 2016 – 5:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Anthony - GreatFebruary 10, 2017 – 5:58 amReplyCancel

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