Most of you have heard me say that in 1989, I had no real understanding of my role as a barrier-breaking, trail-blazing, glass ceiling breaker. I was just a well-supported girl chasing her dream. It was easy for me.

Yes. I said it; IT WAS EASY FOR ME. This is my story, and I have to own the support, the doors that were opened for me. I was a daughter of fortune; my father was a legend in the fire service, so much so one snarky recruit school colleague dubbed him “The Legend” because frankly, even I tired of EVERY SINGLE instructor and/or seasoned firefighter who just poked his head in, all asking how Scotty was and asking me to give him their best. I am white, well-educated, and my father and his friends made sure I was set up for success.

Sure, I had hecklers and hazing, but it was extremely mild and I won’t pretend I was scarred for life by wearing men’s gear, uniforms, boots, etc. I didn’t have to fight for anything, and at the risk of sounding smug, before I left my career as a firefighter, even the hecklers had come to respect me. It’s only in looking back that I truly understand that I was a pioneer, and that no matter how easy my trail, I was at the front of a huge change in society, in the fire service, in how the world views old stereotypes and gender-biased professional roles.

I’m reading an advance copy of Molly Galbraith’s Strong Women Lift Each Other Up. It’s good stuff, and she talks a lot about the ripple effect. When we buy coffee from a woman-owned coffee shop, there’s more impact than meets the eye. When you compliment or encourage another woman, the good will spreads far beyond that moment and that person. Not only is it polite to hold the door open for the person behind you, it makes you a better person too, whether they smile or acknowledge you or not.

That’s the thing about ripples… you don’t necessarily know when you are making one.

I’m glad this post sat for a few days, because I’ve had two significant ripple moments since I unintentionally abandoned the start of this draft. I have one of those jobs where I know my friends and family only ask how work is now if they truly care, because we all know I’m going to say it’s been a brutal week, things are still crazy, etc. The truth is though, I love my job. I work for a great company – and yeah, I complain anyway – and I work with and for sincerely GOOD people, who inspire me, who make me laugh, who make me a better person.

Ripple one:

Big boss stopped at my desk and exchanged pleasantries on his way to another part of the building. I asked about the training he’d mentioned at our last chat (he was out of town for several days for said training), and somehow from there, he also tossed out a “Thank you for always being upbeat; it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

So yeah, I’m re-committed to being positive, especially when it’s not easy to do so. Maybe he said that to inspire me to do better, but while I don’t know him well, I believe he speaks his truths, and … I shall endeavor to be upbeat, even when we’re having the 83rd Monday in a row.

Ripple two:

This one really is a HUGE ripple. There’s a guy at work I really and truly begged his supervisor to fire for about a year. Just in case, I won’t share too much of his story, but our manager kept believing in the guy and saying so, and somehow, one day several months ago, I found myself defending the guy. There’s a ton of story in between, with tough love – as the guy calls it – and lots more story. But we’ve turned a page; turns out he’s always respected me and knew/knows I just want him to be the better man he’s becoming. He’s now in a VERY elite club of co-workers who can actually show me recipes and ask me to bake whatever they’re requesting.

That’s not the BIG ripple though, nor is the fact that I not only tolerate him calling me “Mama Chan” but I’ve come to like it. The big ripple came on Saturday. We work in different buildings, so the first time we crossed paths, he shouted out for me to “come over;” he had something for me. Curiosity got the best of me, so it wasn’t long before I went over. He had a 7-11 bearclaw for me, and honestly, it’s the second-best bearclaw I’ve ever had. See, one day last week, we found ourselves talking about local eateries, and we both mourned the loss of Spudnuts and the first and only bearclaws I’ve ever liked.

He listened, and he shared what he’s found to be the closest replacement, complete with instructions to heat it in the microwave for 8-10 seconds. Aren’t those the best gifts?! When a present means something to both the giver and the recipient, it’s truly special. And a great gift that warms at least two hearts (it was huge; I shared) is a very big ripple.

And here’s how ripples work… hopefully, something I’ve written will resonate with one of you, and you’ll say something/do something that will touch a heart or improve a life…