Butterfly Effect

Edward Lorenz worked on mathematical models to predict weather systems, many years ago. He would use extremely exacting numbers and run his programs repeatedly, analyzing the results. One day, numbers were input that were rounded off in seemingly small inconsequential ways. He was startled to find that a very tiny change in initial conditions created huge differences in the experiments outcome. This is the butterfly effect. It means very minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a butterfly far, far away could influence a hurricane occurring half way around the world. Small acts can have big effects.

Picture of a blue butterfy flapping it's wings


Why did you hug your daughter yesterday? What was the reason you gave your college students a pop quiz earlier this week? Why did you smile at the barista making your coffee this morning? Because you wanted to show your child that you love them. You were trying to impart knowledge to young minds. You were appreciative that the barista was doing something for you. All true, but all missing the larger point.

Butterfly effect: Small acts today, big effects tomorrow

We act in these ways because of the effects these actions might have far in the future. The hope that our daughters will live lives knowing love. Our expectation that our students will do good deeds in life with the wisdom we impart. We know the barista will have a better day having seen our smile that morning. Here’s the thing: we do these acts even though the effects might not be apparent until far down the road. Here’s the bigger thing: we do these acts even though we will likely never see the positive outcomes that might arise from our good deeds. Our small acts today can have big effects on others tomorrow. The butterfly effect.

The world will be in a better place

I define faith as believing that the acts of goodness, kindness and decency done every day will ultimately lead to a greater good. We can’t see that the hug, the quiz or the smile will result in anything wondrous but we have faith that it will. Perhaps without realizing, we hope our actions will play some small part in leaving our world in a better place.

So flap your wings and rest assured that you will usher in the winds of a better tomorrow for us all.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know…

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