Drop a Pebble in the Water


My friend Barbara is planning on reading this poem at Grace Academy on Thursday in celebration of poetry month.  The poem goes hand in hand with the courses I’ve been teaching this semester.  What does it mean to be a socially responsible 21st century citizen in and out of the classroom?  Ho do we treat each other in person and online?  How do our actions today influence others in the future?  What kind of pebble did you drop in the water today?

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

Drop a pebble in the water:
in a minute you forget,
But there’s little waves a-flowing,
and there’s ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing
to a great big wave have grown;
You’ve disturbed a mighty river
just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading
from the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them,
once you’ve started them to flow.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute you forget;
But there’s little waves a-flowing,
and there’s ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart
a mighty wave of tears you’ve stirred,
And disturbed a life was happy
ere you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
just a flash and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort
on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn’t believe the volume
of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
in a minute you forget;
But there’s gladness still a-swelling,
and there’s joy circling yet,
And you’ve rolled a wave of comfort
whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water
just by dropping one kind word.

~By James W. Foley~

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17 comments

  • Pingback: Bullying – By Amy 7B | Shiny

  • Two things from this poem really struck me more than others:

    You’ve disturbed a mighty river
    just by dropping in a stone.

    And there is no way to stop them,
    once you’ve started them to flow.

    Both of these I think really address our digital footprint. Once you put something out in the cyber world, you have “disturbed a mighty river” because you never know what is out there about the topic or other people’s opinions on the subject. Also, once you have put something in writing, picture, text, email, etc. you can never ever take it back. As we read earlier in the semester, you can go back even years later and get a “picture” of a website that has been deleted. This means that if you put something online, and want to delete it, it never really goes away. Makes you think before you put anything in writing or online.

    • I agree with you about the statement “and there is no wat to stop them, once you’ve started them to flow”. This statement proves true for either a positive or a negative comment. Granted, the negative comment will always prevail because that’s just the world that we live in. It’s so scary to think of the stuff that is out there in cyber world weill never go away eventhough you have “deleted” it (so you think). We honestly think we are being so private but in actuality we are making ourselves so public.

  • I really liked reading this poem. I think the first half sends an important message. Children and adults alike often forget how much impact words and actions can have on others. I was extremely happy to come to the second portion of this poem. Spreading positivity is something that was instilled in my from an early age and something about which I continue to feel strongly. Something as simple as a “Good Morning” can make someone’s day or even turn someone’s day around. My mom always told me to remember that a simple smile could save someone – I think this poem expresses this same message beautifully.

  • This is powerful. Not only would this poem be beneficial in an elementary setting, but could be used in high school as well. This would be a great springboard for a conversation on anything from digital citizenry to social movements.

  • Jessica, that same line struck me- “And there is no way to stop them,
    once you’ve started them to flow.” This one line ties up so much that we have read about bullying, especially cyberbullying. It reminds me of nearly everything we’ve talked about. The effects of just a few words, words we often just throw out without thought and forget about, can be so far reaching, even damaging. This poem should be the mantra for our class this semester!

  • I liked this poem a lot. It rings true that when something negative is said by a person, it travels far and lasts longer than that person could have expected. People may forgive someone for a negative comment, but most times people do not forget, especially how it made one feel. The same could be said with positive messages. Positive messages can make a difference to someone else.

  • Stephanie Casey

    I really felt connected to this poem. It seems like such a simple metaphor to teach children (and adults) about their power of their words and their effects on others. I know that I struggle with this as a 2nd grade teacher. Students will often remark I didn’t mean to or I was just playing and it is difficult to explain to them that even though they were just “playing” they still had an impact on someone’s life.

    On the reverse, I was struck by this line:

    Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
    just a flash and it is gone;
    But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
    circling on and on and on,

    Again, we tend to forget that even the smallest acts of kindness have a great impact on others as well.

    I definitely intend on using this poem in my classroom. It seems like such a sweet and simple way to remind students of the power of words. I am already envisioning using some water and a pebble to really visualize this poem.

  • I thought that this poem was a great way to start a conversation on, let alone, bullying but cyberbullying and how once it goes online, the ripples can never fade away. Being in a school system, it is sad to see the students treating other students in such a negative way. Discussions need to be made between students so we can talk about the significance of bullying and what it does to someone’s self esteem. I really like this poem as a convo starter and I am going to bring it to my school.

  • Wow what a powerful poem! This is a great way to show why it is important to be a responsible digital citizen. It really puts it into perspective for students what happens when you do or say something that’s not only positive but also negative. I love that you asked the question what pebble did you drop in the water today? It really makes you reflect on your actions and if they show the real you and make you proud. I think it also asks the question are you proud to be you? It is a great poem to start a discussion about how your actions keep circulating whether they are positive or negative. What a great resource!

  • Stephanie Casey

    Here is the bucket website:
    http://www.bucketfillers101.com/

  • http://strengths.gallup.com/114595/Welcome-Bucketbook-com-Users.aspx

    This poem reminds me of this book that is read to elementary classess called “How full is your bucket?” and depending on what you do to others whether good or mean can either fill your bucket or empty your bucket.

  • I love this poem! It have always thought it was powerful, but I never even thought to apply it to digital citizenship. However, the first thing I thought of was the book I read last night- “No Talking,” by Andrew Clements. At various points in the story, Dave, a fifth grade student, says something particularly hurtful to another student, and has a brief internal discussion on how he knew it was wrong to say and why. Ultimately, the entire grade- and then school- had a no talking contest. The students ultimately learned that their words really do matter, both in responding and discussing material in class, and talking to their peers. It was a really cute book, and quite powerful!

  • My thought is that this poem is a perfect lead-in to the whole subject of communication, be it in words, through gestures, in print or in action. We all have choices as to what we say or do. Through a recent discussion with someone near and dear to me, I became acquainted with three questions that seem to function as rules of thumb for all forms of communication. They might also stimulate interesting discussions and even spawn a number of different class activities. The questions are: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

  • Very powerful! This is something that no matter what age you are, you can relate to this. This reminds of a “pay it forward” type thing….but based on what your action(s) or word(s) that you throw out to someone, determines how you are paying it forward….What are you paying forward? Are you forwarding negativity or generosity? The choice is yours……Hope you make a good one.

  • Pingback: “Skipping Pebbles Through Life” | My Blog

  • Pingback: “Skipping Pebbles Throughout Life” | My Blog

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