Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Today I picked an old draft in my blogger portfolio, where I had jotted down some ideas for safekeeping, then forgot about it. I must have been in a high-minded mood, pondering how individual action can influence a world.

I want my actions to count. I must behave as if what I do matters. Call me selfish, but I want a better world in small ways and large. I see this determined optimism also in William Ury, as he talks about some of the most intractable problems of our day. He asks if the problems in the Middle East bother us, even if we are not immediately affected. I have to say yes. This concern may be as primal as distressed bystanders watching tribe members duke it out. We may not be fully aware how much these disputes affect us, until it is resolved. I cried when the Berlin Wall fell, even though I had no German relatives on either side of that accursed wall. It's very existence carved a scar on the human psyche. Ury encourages us all that as bystanders, we offer perspective. We help disputants find a way out of their death-grip.

Have you heard of the Butterfly effect? The idea is that a chance flutter of a butterfly deep in the Amazon may start a chain reaction that results in a hurricane. The idea is that a seemingly small action on our part might have monumental consequences.

This idea has been explored oh-so-creatively by various SF writers, especially through time travel. Can a seemingly inconsequential action in the deep past affect our present? Cancel a war perhaps? Or would such tinkering result in unintended side-effects? Here is an example, A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury.

Mathematically, my gut tells me this is not so. Small inconsequential actions tend to cancel each other out. It's a good thing too, because at the atomic level, there's a chance always that an electron may not behave as expected. But the mass average of all atoms means our desk stays solid and our clothes remain knitted together on our frame.

Nevertheless, I choose to grab opportunities to make my immediate world better, whether it is a free compliment, a spare smile, or a small act of kindness. I figure the deliberate push towards kindness surely will add up.

Here are some ways to take small actions towards big changes.

Pay it Forward

Random Acts of Kindness

Abraham Path

Free Hugs Campaign