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Knock-On Effect

What goes around comes around

by Stuart Yeates (revised, originally published in 2005)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider that our actions often have a greater impact than we realize.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available a dictionary definition of the word ‘karma’. A definition from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is available at:


  1. Begin by asking whether any of the students have ever heard the phrase ‘What goes around comes around’.

    Read the dictionary definition of the word ‘karma’ and explain its meaning.

  2. Suggest that everything that we do or leave undone, and every time we speak or keep silent, can have consequences beyond our appreciation. A careless word, for instance, may end a long-standing friendship, and our failure to keep a promise might mean that we are never trusted again. The chances are that the way we act towards others will return to us in some way, for better or for worse.

  3. By way of example, tell the following story. Please note that it is apocryphal; the well-documented biographies of the people involved do not tally with this account. However, the story does make a strong point for use in this assembly.

    One day, Mr Fleming, a poor Scottish farmer, heard a cry for help coming from a marsh near his farm. Running to the marsh, he found a frightened boy stuck up to his waist in mud, screaming and struggling desperately to free himself. The farmer pulled the boy out, saving him from a slow, horrible death.

    The next day, a horse-drawn carriage pulled up to the ramshackle farmhouse. A smartly dressed gentleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy whom the farmer had saved.
    ‘I want to repay you,’ said the nobleman. ‘You saved my son’s life.’
    ‘No, I can’t accept payment for what I did,’ the farmer replied.
    At the same moment, the farmer’s own son came to join him at the door.
    ‘Is that your son?’ the nobleman asked.
    ‘Yes,’ the farmer replied proudly.
    ‘I’ll make a deal with you,’ said the rich man. ‘Let me take your son and give him a good education. If the boy is anything like his father, he’ll grow up to be a man you can be proud of.’ And he did just that.

    In time, Farmer Fleming’s son graduated from St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the famous Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, a drug that has saved countless lives.

    Years later, the nobleman’s son was suffering from pneumonia. What saved him? Penicillin. And what was the name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.

    As you can see, one loving action resulted in another, which then benefited the giver again.

Time for reflection

The Bible contains much advice about getting back the kind of behaviour that we show to others.

- In Matthew 7.1-2, Jesus says, ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’
- In the form of the Golden Rule, this becomes ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6.31)
- Galatians 6.7 says, ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.’

Let’s pause to imagine everything that we have ever done.

- Every time we have met another person.
- Every word we have ever said.
- Every good deed we have ever done.
- Every time we have acted out of love for another person.
- Every wrong thing we have ever done.
- Every time we have hurt another human being through our words or actions.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Now let’s think about the ripples that these activities may have sent out.

Let’s consider the effects that our behaviour has had on the lives of others.

Let’s reflect upon the consequences of all the things that we have ever done.

- What actions would we want to change?
- Would we want these things to be returned to us?

Pause to allow time for thought.

So, if what goes around comes around, let’s make sure that we send love, goodwill and friendship.

Dear God,
Forgive us for things that we have done that have caused pain to others.
Forgive us for the unkind word, the impatient gesture, the hard and selfish deed, the failure to show sympathy.
Please enable us to live in a way that brings joy and peace to others.
Help us to see other people’s needs and respond in a loving and helpful way.

Publication date: November 2019   (Vol.21 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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