While using a computer weather model, Edward Lorenz discovered that a gust of wind the strength of the flapping of a butterfly’s wing can drastically change the weather on the other side of the world. Every action is interconnected; just one tiny change in either of my parents’ lives at any point in their childhoods could have prevented my birth. This also means that if I hadn’t experienced some of the hard parts of my life so far, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
On August 17, 2005, when I was 14 years old, my family left our home in Buras, Louisiana and drove nine hours north to my aunt’s house in Shreveport, to escape from Hurricane Katrina. I remember leaving, thinking about how annoying it was to have to pack up and leave when I wanted to hang out with my friends. Over the three years that I had lived in southern Louisiana, I had evacuated for five different hurricanes, returning each time to no damage. We only took a few changes of clothes, a couple of photo albums, legal documents, and my dog. We left without saying goodbye to anyone, the way you would leave to go to the store.
After two days of watching the weather channel, we knew we weren’t going home anytime soon. Instead, we went to live with my grandparents in Missouri. In November, one of my friends went back to Buras, in a boat. Now, four years later, there is still no town. My old school, my house, my neighborhood, everything to prove that my town ever existed, is gone. To this day, it makes me sick to think that so many aspects of those years only exist in my memory. There are so many people that I haven’t seen or talked to since then, and I know that I probably never will again.
Sometimes, I wish I could go to Africa and destroy the butterfly that brought so much damage.
But then I realize that without that horrible event, I wouldn’t be where I am now. If I hadn’t lost some friends, I wouldn’t have made the ones I have now. I wouldn’t be the same person. I think of all the things I have been blessed with, and I realize that they only exist with the disasters.
So I try to live my life constantly thinking about how my decisions will affect those around me. If a butterfly can unknowingly turn a calm day into a hurricane, how much more do my decisions affect those around me? Holding the door for someone probably won’t affect them very much, but it could make their day a little better. When somebody does something nice for me, it can completely change my attitude. I want to have a good influence on other people.
Every time I interact with somebody, our relationship, even if it is short, changes a little bit of who I am. My life is connected to everyone else’s, and that is a great thing. Every person I come into contact with will one day be a father, mother, or friend. How I treat them changes how they treat the next person they meet. I believe that, like a butterfly, I have the power to change lives.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.