By Labhras Loughran
You see the ripples on the water spread out and out, until they eventually starting bouncing against the banks of the pond. But very quickly they die and the pond is just as it was. The bit of energy you have used has been dissipated and is no longer detectable. You made a brief splash but now there is no difference. In science we understand this effect – it’s called the third law of thermodynamics.
But does this inexorable law of thermodynamics operate in the human domain? You do something to help someone. It has a small effect for a time but does it’s ripples disappear and result in no practical effect?
I have been in the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul for about 15 years. A core group of clients, who were there when I first joined, are still there today - 15 years later.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul does not appear to be doing them much good. The SVP has not been able to help them to change or move on or get a better grip on their financial position. They are stuck. Nothing seems to have changed in 15 years except that they and us have gotten older.
But let me tell you about John. John has mental health problems and can’t work. He is on a lot of medication but is still very tense and edgy. He is a sensitive soul. He is not articulate but he expresses himself with painting. He is also very lonely. He has absolutely no one to share Christmas with. So he literally tries to shut out Christmas and its feelings of love, kindness and fellowship, by locking the front door on Christmas Eve and not venturing out until St. Stephens’s day.
One evening about 3 years ago, I visited John and he was in very bad form for some reason. That evening I had a bit more time than usual so I went into his flat, sat down on the bed and listened to him for about half an hour. That’s all I did. I just sat there for half an hour and listened. When I got up to go John thanked me sincerely. I could see he was in much better form, more relaxed, more optimistic. I had not changed his life. However, I did make a difference to John for an evening.
In a thousand years no one will know that John nor I existed never mind the fact that I helped him for that evening. The little ripples that John and I have made will have totally decayed into chaos. But the third law of thermodynamics does not apply to God. He knows and always will know that I made a difference to John’s life even if only for one night. He will always know the affect that you or I have on other people. It is a marvellous power. We should all use it.