This I Believe

CAROL - Des Moines, Iowa
Entered on September 25, 2006


I believe in the proverbial flutter of a butterfly’s wing on one side of the world being the origin of a hurricane on the other. Human beings–not just butterflies–are connected in ways that go beyond family, community, or affiliation, with strands that stretch deeply into the past and far into the future. I believe that our connection with one another obligates us to acknowledge one another as having a collective fate.

Those who live inside the walled city or housing development are connected to those who subsist on the trash heaps outside of it. Those riding in the limo behind the tinted glass are connected to those protesting angrily in the street. Those with the keys to the jail cell are connected to those behind the bars. We must never lose sight of the humanity of others, even when our view may obscured by belief, experience, or doctrine.

I am connected to a host of others by the simplest acts of my day. Someone stitched the clothing on my back. Someone picked the melon I sliced for my breakfast. Someone slaughtered the beef I grill. The oil I consume in order to drive my son to school and heat our home has its effects on human lives all over the world, not to mention the environment. I will never meet most of the people with whom I am connected on this “chain of consumption,” but my connection to them is no less real because I cannot see their faces. I can be conscious of how I affect the lives of others throughout my day. I can be curious about them. I can be grateful. I can be aware of how my choices might negatively impact someone else. If I choose to buy coffee grown by a Fair Trade company as opposed to one that exploits workers, I have done something to honor that invisible connection. If I buy more expensive but locally grown and harvested produce or beef, I have done something to strengthen a bond.

I believe that the energy of a thought radiates waves that ripple through the lives of others. On a day when my own defenses might be down, I can be crushed by someone else’s negativity. Other days, my own negativity might thread its way through my workday, my family, even to the dog and cat, when I let a bad mood get the best of me.

I believe that the most important lesson you can teach a child is ecological: we are all part of a whole. Any change or movement in that whole has a profound if distant or delayed effect on every other aspect of that whole. Even a small but good decision can have lasting effect. A mere smile that brightens another person’s day could result in a “hurricane” of goodness in the lives of many others. We are all in this together. Our separation is a lie.