A small stream flows across a bed of rough sand. It's bordered by small dunes, an old tree whose roots are broken and gray, weatherbeaten; they dangle above a nearby embankment. A strong fast boy could make a running leap across the stream without getting wet if he wanted to.
As the water flows across the sand, it seems certain and constant, predictable in its straight and shallow bed. When one takes a closer look at the streambed, tiny movements of the grains of sand, tumbling from one place to another downstream an inch or two are visible. Each pebble that moves slightly alters the flow of water, but surely the water's force cannot be overcome by one or two grains of sand. Or can they?
If you sit and watch the water for a long time, you begin to see tiny cave-ins of the water's edges, and that some grains are slightly larger than others. Some stick together longer than others and others pile up against them until a more secure obstruction is formed. These are subtle shifts, small influences on the flow of the moving stream as it stretches across the sand, but they do alter the flow, and when the stream has to shift direction ever so gently, other changes occur. Every small change causes another, and changes are endless.
Sometimes, randomly it seems, tiny landslides tumble into the water, or cave-ins of sand slump into the water's edge, a few cupfuls of sand all at once. The nature of water is such that in its fluidity, deflection occurs or pooling of depth, and force is distributed differently; the stream alters its course.
The stream I watched, small and insignificant as it was, acted as a metaphor for me. I watched it stream out to the ocean across the beach sand and spent some time looking at the changes that the flow of water caused as it exerted force on the banks of wet sand. I saw that the flow of water was moving sand along the bottom little by little so that it looked stable at first glance but really was always changing, shifting and readjusting.
When we live and interact as humans, we are much like a stream with its shifts in depth, direction and alterations in its boundary zones. A change in mood or new idea turns us in subtly new directions, and we must allow for change, absorb it and respond fluidly to be able to continue functioning. Often, the tiniest pebbles' movements in a stream of water eventually confer large shifts because one movement of one single pebble redistributes force, a force that may be just what is needed downstream to turn the tide, so to speak, in favor of the stream flowing more to one side than the other.
We don't really ever know how much our work or mood or ideas change things around us. It could be said that consistency of effort makes a bigger difference. Or it may be said that one big effort is much more important to the world we live in. The truth is that no matter what we do or think or how we move or act, it affects the world, if in no other way but energy or force being exerted on the universe and the universe having to respond.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way