The butterfly effect (the theory, not the movie) is the idea that change can be caused by a seemingly inconsequential action. For example, the flutter of a butterfly’s wings moves the air enough to eventually lead to the formation of a tornado. I’m going to move this theory from mathematics or atmospheric conditions to application in our own lives. What we do, how we react, what we put out in the universe matters.
In the mid-1990s, I got to be a participant in a miracle. A friend of ours, a young woman, found out she had a tumor on her fourth vertebra. If you look up injuries to the fourth vertebra, you will discover that when it’s damaged things like quadriplegia, as well as a high potential requiring a ventilator for the rest of your lives are common consequences. Unfortunately, her diagnosis was not good. The doctors told her that if she survived the surgery, she would probably be paralyzed and need to use a respirator for breathing because of where the tumor was situated.
So, we prayed. Our little church prayed. Her friends prayed. The people who worked with her, her parents, and her husband prayed.
She went up to Madison for the surgery. They took another MRI and it only confirmed their initial findings. The family prayed together the night before the surgery and left it in the Lord’s hands.
When the doctor was performing the surgery, he was startled to discover that the tumor had totally liquified. There wasn’t a mass anymore – it was water. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, the tumor that had clearly been seen the night before was gone. A miracle had happened. An answer to prayer.
Now, in the day of Facebook and social media, I see prayer requests almost every day from people who are dealing with some kind of burden. And the overwhelming response to those requests is positive, loving, and uplifting. I’m always grateful and humbled when I see the initial poster come back with their thanks because the burden was lifted, the situation resolved, the operation successful, or the love felt. Sometimes, the situation doesn’t end up the way we wanted, but generally, when that happens, the original poster still feels the love and support of their online community.
Why am I talking about prayers and miracles when I started out this essay talking about the butterfly effect? I’m glad you asked!
Our prayers or good thoughts or whatever we want to call them – are expressions of love, faith, and hope. We push positive thoughts out. Some of us pray to God (whoever our individual God might be.) Some of us just push out positive thoughts to an open and inviting universe. The point I want to make is that the collective of those prayers, thoughts, ideas, and whatever else is focused on that problem, works. It heals, it cures, it lifts, and it changes lives.
We have a powerful tool here. A superpower! And yet, I don’t think we understand how powerful it could be and, like any other superpower, how it can also be turned to the dark side.
In the past few weeks, I have read and heard about so many tragedies. Yesterday, as I scanned Facebook, I read about the shooting at a synagogue in California. I immediately turned on the television to learn more and I heard one person respond to it by blaming it on a particular political climate. My heart dropped and I turned off the channel. I didn’t need to feel blame, anger, or politics. I needed to feel compassion for those families, concern for their well-being, hope for our country, and love for those strangers whose lives were just turned upside down by one person.
Then I thought about the consequences of feelings those other emotions. If I believe that positive thoughts can produce a positive outcome, what happens when hundreds, thousands, millions of people have negative thoughts?
What happens when we hate instead of love?
What happens when we criticize instead of support?
What happens when we fear instead of have faith or hope?
What happens when we are envious instead of glad for someone else’s success?
What happens when we send all of those negative emotions out in our posts, in our conversations, in our media talking points, and in our hearts?
What happens to the people reading, listening, and absorbing those thoughts?
What happens to us?
I would like to propose an experiment. For one week, stop. Stop the negative. Use Thumper’s Mom’s rule – “if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say nothing at all.”
If the media persists in being negative, turn it off. If a news story flashes across your Facebook feed and it’s negative, hurtful, cruel or mean – don’t read it, scroll by. Send out positive, hopeful, loving and caring posts and thoughts.
Then, at the end of the week, think about how you feel. Do you feel better about your family, your workplace, your community, your country, or your world? Do you have more patience, more love, or more hope? Do you think the world is a better place?
Well, my hypothesis is that it will be a better place because we have all just spent an entire week showering the world with hope and love.
And you will have made all the difference.