When Butterflies Rule the World

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Do you ever wonder if your small efforts, quiet prayers, unseen actions ever do any good? I know sometimes I do.

Recently I was reading about the mathematician and meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz (1917-2008). In the early 1960’s he was working with mathematical formulas, feeding them into computers to predict weather patterns. When he tried to shorten the numbers in the formulas, from six decimal points to three, he found the computer’s weather predictions varied wildly. And so, he determined that the slightest variance -.001 vs. .000001, created completely different outcomes. This gave birth to the Chaos Theory also known as the “Butterfly Effect.” To illustrate this effect he said that a butterfly flapping its tiny wings in Africa could set into motion a whisper of a breath, that could ultimately cause a hurricane in North America.

This kind of reminded me of the words of Mother Theresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things, with great love.”

But, thinking of the Butterfly Effect,  even those small things done with great love, can do great things.

What are those small things? Smiling at that co-worker who drives you crazy; taking out the garbage without mom asking; forgiving someone who doesn’t even know they’ve hurt you; checking on an elderly neighbor; laughing at a friend’s so-un-funny joke; running another errand just as you walk in the door, -cheerfully; lending an ear to a stranger who wants to share a story; quietly praying for a friend who’s struggling to find a job, or having a tough time at home.  Sending an unusual note…

Several years ago a man approached me at my father’s funeral. He was a family friend, a big stocky gentleman and a former Marine, like my father. As we shook hands outside the church after the service, “Bob’s” weathered, wrinkled face gently filled with emotion.

“Your dad was something special,” he said in a solemn tone. “You probably don’t know this but every year he’d send me a birthday card.” He paused and looked away, then he laughed to hold back tears that were welling up. “It wasn’t on my birthday, that’s the funny thing. It was on November 10th, the birthday of the Marine Corp,” he paused to pull out a cigarette. “A card on the birthday of the Marine Corp,” he said with another laugh. “Yes sir, I really loved that about him.”

He just fumbled with the unlit cigarette as he quietly spoke about other kind things my father did; but the birthday card each November 10th, “he’d really miss that,” he whispered as his eyes grew misty once again.

The thing is, my dad wasn’t a typical former Gung-ho Marine. He wasn’t even a Gung-ho Marine, when he was a Marine. He served in combat in the Korean War, but he never talked about it.

After his time in the service, he packed away all the pictures, uniforms, medals and mementos from that part of his life. The only thing he shared with us was silly made-up Korean phrases that made us laugh. “Ideo-ship-sho-nay-chingo,” he’d cry out and then Karate chop or high kick the air, with a bread basket on his head. Yeah, he was a real warrior.

But, he knew “Bob,” was a proud Marine. So, he acknowledged that each year with a simple card. I never knew that until Bob shared it with me; an unknown, unseen act that brought a big rough and tough Marine to tears.

So, you never know the hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, tsunamis your own seemingly butterfly prayers, wishes, and deeds are setting into motion; only the one’s you never put into action.

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