2017-03-16 / Opinions

Guest VIEWpoint

Small acts can have unknown effects


Kristen L. Rifenbark Kristen L. Rifenbark Have you ever had someone brighten your day with a mere small act of kindness? Perhaps the person was a complete stranger. Perhaps he or she offered an unsolicited kind word or smiled brightly at you. The impact the action had on you may have been profound, yet to that person it was nothing noteworthy.

This is an extremely abstract idea that I’d like to try to convey to you, so stick with me. It all makes sense to me but getting it out clearly and concisely is a challenge. The “butterfly effect,” according to Wikipedia, is described as, “the concept that small causes can have large effects. Initially, it was used with weather prediction but later the term became a metaphor used in and out of science.” So what if our everyday choices and actions create a butterfly effect that we aren’t even aware of.

This might be more of a daydream than reality, but it’s fun to imagine. I believe that we all have a purpose here on earth. That purpose may or may not ever be known to us, but as they say, God acts in mysterious ways. My purpose could be, for example, to smile at a complete stranger at exactly 2:42 pm on December 17, 2012. It was probably seemingly insignificant to me but to that complete stranger, let’s call her Amanda, it meant a lifetime of difference, literally. You see, unbeknownst to anyone but Amanda, she was contemplating taking her own life. She had been struggling with depression for quite some time, and she was considering going through with her plan that night. On her way home, she thought about that smile. A complete stranger smiled at her for some reason. She thought and thought about how a stranger could look at her and see anything to smile about. As she was thinking about this during her drive, she became the victim of a terrible car accident. Another vehicle had lost control and crossed into Amanda’s lane. Moments later, Amanda could hear the EMS personnel yelling to her, asking if she was OK. As soon as she understood what had happened, that stranger’s smile flashed in her mind, and she felt intense relief she had survived. Can you see how one little act of human kindness and love created a ripple effect, a butterfly effect, in this imaginary scenario? That mindless, universal instinct and intuition affected countless other acts of positive interactions creating a super-blasted synchronization of souls. Knowing the endless possibilities of God’s creativity, I truly believe that is how the world works.

While the story above was a pure act of my imagination, I’m confident that this scenario could occur every second of every day in some way, shape or form. Knowing that this is my reality, I can’t help but think that I have a certain responsibility to God and all of my family and neighbors. A responsibility of somehow giving back more than I take, to spread love and kindness and true empathy towards everyone I encounter. I’ll be the first to admit that I fall very short of living up to this standard. We are all human and we all make mistakes. That, my friends, is the adventurous challenge we can overcome with a fresh start every day.

Chapter 4 of the book of Esther in The Bible, verse 14 demonstrates this point perfectly, “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” It could be anything or even everything that we do. A great friend of mine reminded me recently that we are the sum of all of the choices we have ever made in our lives. He believes that we are in the exact spot we are in at every given moment as a result of every choice we have ever made; good and bad choices put us on a path. Circumstances can be overcome with effort. Take for instance, the son of a single mother living in poverty with his brother. The one brother fell victim to gang violence and drugs and he needlessly died as a result of his poor choices. The other brother worked hard, overcame his circumstances to become a pediatric neurosurgeon, head of a prestigious university hospital and once presidential candidate for the United States of America. Acts of kindness towards others gave this brother a boost, a leg up. Positive spirits drive individuals to keep on keeping on.

Readers, thank you for sticking with me on this one. It was extremely abstract, but I hope I was able to convey a simple message: Love your neighbor as yourself, as we all depend on it. I challenge you to smile to strangers and friends alike, offer your seat to someone in more need than you, visit those who are not able to get out of the house or who are lonely. Spread faith. Spread hope. Most importantly, spread love.

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