The butterfly effect is the idea that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could cause a dust storm in the Sahara Desert. Much like the butterfly’s action affecting conditions half a world away, the power of saying “hello” or “thank you”, or simple gestures like a smile or a handshake, impacts everyone around them. It’s easy to overlook such simple words, but by saying “hello” I have the power to make someone’s day a little better, the ability to make people smile, and to connect with those around me. And if we have the ability, why not use it? Saying “hello” to the little old lady at the grocery store will only bring a smile to her face, and saying “thank you” to the cashier at the gas station may give her hope that people appreciate the job she does, even if it isn’t exactly glamorous. Saying a simple “hello” is a fairly easy thing to do, but for something that requires such little effort, its power is often underestimated.
I remember my mom giving flowers to the gas station lady one afternoon. Our car had broken down that day at the gas station, and try as we might, we couldn’t fix it. Tensions were running high as we were gassing up for the stressful trip to San Francisco as I was being examined at UCSF. With our anxieties running high, our broken car seemed like the end of the world (uhm, i REALLY don’t like that, ideas though? How do i say that better?) The gas station lady, dressed in her starchy blue uniform, came out to assist us. She poked and prodded, eventually fixing our car so we could fill it with gas and get on with our day.
The gas station lady’s kindness and willingness to help us get through our day impacted both my mother and I. To thank her for her generosity, we quickly drove to our local grocery store and purchased her a bouquet of flowers. I remember the smile on her face, the absolute shocked look that someone cared enough to buy her flowers, the bounce in her step as she walked back into the Quick Mart, showing her coworkers the beautiful bunch of flowers she had just received. The gas station lady and my mother and I were both on the receiving end of an act of kindness—the gas station lady helped us with our dilemma, inspiring us to act kindly to us around us, and my mother and I, purchasing the flowers for the gas station lady, let the kindness in our hearts spread to her and her coworkers. There’s no doubt in my mind that giving the gas station lady flowers as the ability to change the world.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.