Posted on November 21, 2022 by Catherine Ferrer
Editor's Note: Catherine Ferrer is the A2A Live! winner, earning her engagement at the 2022 Harwood Summit.

If you're inspired, Join Rich Harwood and The Patterson Foundation's Aspirations to Actions initiative for a constructive conversation to discover what's possible through shared aspirations. The community has two opportunities to participate, which are free to attend as a gift from The Patterson Foundation:


What did I bring back from the Harwood Summit in Philadelphia this year? A pebble collection.

What I didn’t realize is that I have been collecting these pebbles all along. Since graduating from New College of Florida almost 20 years ago, I have immersed myself in this community, working collaboratively to address issues like affordable housing, mentoring, family financial stability, community engagement, and the creation of inclusive public space.

These are my pebbles.

The knowledge, skills, and relationships I have collected through these experiences are small but significant gifts I have picked up along the way that I can share in the service of building a thriving community.

When I am confronted by huge challenges, it can be tempting to put down those pebbles and look for a huge boulder that makes big waves. Throwing boulders is especially attractive when the despair feels deeper. Sometimes I feel stuck between the inertia of being overwhelmed and the exhaustion of everything feeling urgent all at once. I want to “get it right” and not lose the opportunity. In my worst moments, I feel too small, not enough. Will I look back and wonder if I did all I could?

The distraction of looking for a boulder overlooks the many pebbles I am already holding. The difficulty lifting the boulder focuses energy on one burdensome thing instead of many doable actions. And if I’m being honest, I know that the repercussions of throwing a boulder are likely to range from resentment to outrage, further entrenching resistance to change.

The pebble strategy is more sustainable and inclusive of others. Finding and sharing pebbles is:

  • Actionable
  • Doable
  • Achievable

Pebbles are not easy, though. Keep in mind that when you first drop a pebble in the water, you can no longer see clearly … for a bit. And ripples necessitate that we accept uncertainty. We cannot engineer ripples.

Going between the hotel and the National Constitution Center, where the Summit was held, I walked by Christ Church Burial Ground, the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin. Among his many witty and wise quotes is my new favorite: “You may delay, but time will not.”

Time is passing, so you’re either passing your time with despair, paralysis, and inaction, or you’re choosing to pass the time you have with hope, intention, and small actions. What are your pebbles, and where can you contribute them? What you love creates ripples when you share it.
PS --- Don’t forget to celebrate the small ripples! Resist the urge to just keep pushing forward without at least acknowledging that something is happening … or, at the very least, not questioning every little ripple and wondering if it’s enough. As Dorothy Day said: “A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words, and deeds is like that. No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.”

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