Dominos – Ripples – Butterfly Effect: You make a Difference
Have you ever felt small or insignificant, maybe even powerless? In our big world where media gives us access to the vast happenings across the globe we come to realize the scope of the world, the overwhelming nature of the trauma and catastrophes across the globe, and all too often that bigness creates in us a sense of smallness; a sense of overwhelm and insignificance. Once we feel powerless, that our efforts will make no difference, we become passive passengers on this rock we call a planet. We hope for the best, but feel too small to instigate change. When we get to that place we have essentially stopped believing that we matter. Today I want to remind why this is untrue. Stay tuned for the small and simple things that change the world.
Stories are our lives in language. Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. I’m Lori Lee, and I’m excited for our future together of telling stories, evaluating our own stories, and lifting ourselves and others to greater places because of our control over our stories. This podcast is about empowerment and giving you, the listener, ideas to work with in making your stories work for you. Story power serves you best when you know how to use it.
You’ve pushed the first domino in a string of set up dominoes and watched one fall into the next, and the next, and the next as the domino structure unfolds. You’ve thrown a rock in a pond and watched the ripples start small and get bigger and bigger until they cover the pond, or watched a fish break the surface of the water sending ripples out to the shore. You’ve heard of the ‘butterfly effect’ which posits that the flap of a butterfly wing on one side of the world generates the air movement that eventually culminates in a storm on the other side of the world. All of these are an illustration of how one action sets in motion other actions, that continue to set off additional actions. And we do this a hundred times every day…
There are thousands of reasons that each of us matter. They begin in the intrinsic value of being alive and that alone means we must be significant…to the butterfly effect and how even our smallest actions create responses, affect lives, change the world in ways we can’t fully understand. If you’ve had a child you’ve changed the world. If you’ve loved someone you’ve had impact. If you’ve hurt someone you’ve pushed a domino. If you’ve shared or forgiven or learned something you have created some type of ripple. In a way, it seems like a silly thing to talk about because everything we do and don’t do affects the people and the world around us, in ways we can sometimes see and often in ways we cannot. It’s so obvious, but at the same time, maybe it’s not so obvious, so it merits a fifteen-minute conversation about how much we each matter in the world.
Despite this tremendous influence and significance of each person, one of the most struggled with concepts, across the board, is that of self-worth. The one ghost that I have seen, as I’ve been privy to people’s deepest self-work, is that even the most successful of us, at our deepest core of things that hold us back, struggle with feelings of self-doubt and our own handful of insecurities about being enough—whether it’s physically, mentally, even spiritually. Self-doubt, in one way or another, is a killer of dreams and joy.
It’s kind of crazy when you break it down. Cultural values that say odd things like – you matter if you’re a movie star, you matter if you’re a sports star, you matter if you make a lot of money…when you actually step back and evaluate the absurdness of those ideas and how heavily they are bought into, it’s disturbing. In Scientific American and Huffington Post in 2012 both ran articles on research that pre-teens put the value of being famous as their number one goal, overshadowing financial success, love, and community. American Idol, You Tube, followers on social media, the obsession with needing exterior validation to feel worth is rampant. So let’s have a little bit of a reality check.
The things that we do, the way we interact with others, the talents we share, the things we create, the love we generate, the smile, the hug, the choice to rescue a dog, to show patience, to forgive to notice someone else….my heavens I could go on forever with this list…these millions of interactions create responses, movements, feelings, and in general tremendous power in the world around us. The ripple in the pond, the first domino pushed. Every day we impact one another in tremendous ways.
Let me start with something I noticed as I have worked in groups who are doing healing work on their stories. One of the things I was initially most surprised at, was how often something small – a comment made by a peer or a teacher had literally shaped the stories in a child’s brain until as an adult they find it nearly impossible to shake off the imposed reality of the time in 6th grade when a peer told them they were ugly. When I started teaching composition at Utah State University, we had an assignment where I had the students write about their history with writing and those teachers who had affected them most as they grew and learned to write. Inevitably there were a handful of students in each class who were certain they could not write because sometime in their elementary education they had received too many red marks on a paper, or a teacher had made a comment meant to instruct that instead was interpreted as a pronouncement that they were hopeless writers. I was shocked at how small comments, one-liners, a mark on a paper, had defined a complete interpretation of an individual’s concept of themselves. But then I considered, how in fourth grade I had written an essay about my doll Rachel and the paper had come back with praise about the descriptive detail and suddenly I knew I was a talented writer. These things are so incredibly small – and yet internalized in such a way as to be completely formative in another’s life. The other day a friend and I were talking and she shared how in grade school she had walked into a class and a class mate, who incidentally was caught up in a friend triangle, told her that she was ugly, and now, as a 40 something woman she still hears that child’s voice in her head every time she looks in the mirror.
While these are a few negative examples of how the smallest things we do can significantly impact the trajectories of people’s lives, especially during their formative years, we also have the power to create tremendous good. I’d like to share a story told by Rick Lewis, he was a guest I interviewed on episode 41, and he tells about a time he unexpectedly had an interaction with an audience member that changed them both.
Rick Lewis Story: Listen to the audio for this recording.
Rick Lewis www.ricklewis.co or firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve talked about how powerfully small things can affect us in negative ways if we buy into those stories, we’ve just heard how being patient, supportive, and kind can deeply impact another, Rick’s willingness to reach out and draw attention to and praise the man in the yellow tie for his dedication to kindness – praising another—can deeply affect another, let me share a few more stories sent to me from a listener about moments in the life of her family where they were deeply touched by the choices and actions of others:
We were a young married couple with two small children and had just bought our first home. When the water pipe broke, it was of course on our side of the city line and so we were responsible for fixing it. We didn’t have any money but somehow word reached a Doctor who lived up the hill from us. He had the know-how and a backhoe tractor and he came down and dug the hole for us and helped my husband to replace the pipe and covered it up. Every time I turn the water off I think of this kind man who would humble himself to help out our little family.
When I was 8 ½ months pregnant with our third child our second child got the chicken pocks. After two weeks of nursing, her, myself and our oldest child got the chicken pocks. I have never been so sick in my life and so many horrible things can happen to a child when in the womb. I was sick of body and sick of mind. My friends and neighbors fed us for two weeks. Then I delivered a healthy baby girl, they fed us for two more weeks. They never made me feel as if I were a burden or an inconvenience in their lives.
Four years later our oldest blew up is hand and needed surgery to reattach a tendon in his finger. Two weeks later the Dr. found a lump on the side of our youngest neck. He recommended that we have a biopsy of the lump because he felt it could be cancer. They would put him all the way under. This was because if he moved during the procedure the whole side of his face could be paralyzed. We were very worried about our boys and about how we would pay the medical bills. One day I went outside to get in the car and there in an envelope was $400 and a note telling us they hope this would help and we were loved.
A few years ago her husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. During this time lots of choices by lots of people made a tremendous impact on this families life, for example, she lists:
- His work sent his paycheck until the day he died. They didn’t have to do that.
- People fed us often for eight months.
- One night I took my husband back to our local hospital because of some complications. They wouldn’t send him to a bigger hospital because it was very possible that he would die on the way. our family Dr. sat with me all night long without charge as the nurses and Doctors fought to save his life long enough to get him to an intensive care unit.
- My husband died Dec. 15 our daughter was married three days later in a quiet a snow storm. We were having the reception at our church. The members of our church made it happen. The walks were cleared the refreshment were taken care of as was the setup and take down. They helped make it a joyful day and day of happiness.
- I was taken to lunch once or twice a week that first year.
- My husband has two adult nieces that called me and sent me notes of encouragement regularly and still after almost 7 years they still check on me. During that time I went back to college, they were a great support at that time. One of them let me send my papers to her and she would correct the grammar and send them back to me.
- Someone sends me flowers every year on Valentine day.
She finishes her letter to me with the words: “From the smallest act to the very largest act, kindness changes people’s lives. Whether receiving or giving.”
Rick Lewis said, in his book The Seven Rules You Were Born to Break, “Paying attention to the small daily details of our lives is one facet of excellence. When we ignore those details we discount our ability to make a difference in the lives of others and ourselves.”
When we look about us on a daily basis to see what small act we can do for another, or how simply living our best life blesses the world, how getting rid of old negative stories that have played on rerun in our lives can free us from untruths that hold us back or make us feel insignificant, and how that changes our interaction with the world, which IS significant, we start to get an idea of how much control we have over the impact we have on the world, and how taking responsibility for small and simple things we can do causes tremendous impact around us. First, we simply have to acknowledge that no matter who you are, you are immensely significant and what you do and don’t do changes the world through ripple effects you can’t even predict. It’s crazy cool when you think about it. All you can control is what you put out there, and then the ripples start.
My challenge to you this week is two-fold. First, sit down like the listener who sent me her list of kindnesses and take 15 minutes to think about the impact others have had on your life in a positive way. The second challenge is to look for a way to impact someone today. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass, and while you may not know how far reaching your action ends up being, you most certainly can push the first domino.
Have a great week out there creating hero scenarios in your story. We’d love to hear some of your stories. Go to www.loveyourstorypodcast.com and go to the contact us page – share, we read all your emails.