When we observe the face of a clock, we can only see two or three things at work: the hour and minute hands, and sometimes a second hand. Are these moving on their own? Of course not. Look inside a clock, and you will find the gears that move the hands which tell us time. Life is similar to a clock in that fashion. Major events happen every day, but they do not occur on their own. You have to look beneath the surface to find something smaller, yet more important; I believe it is the little things in life that control our day.
A few years ago, my brother had a routine in which he would hitch a ride with my neighbor to school every day. However, one morning my brother was running late and his ride got fed up with waiting. My brother had to find his own way to school that day. My neighbor, on the other hand, got into a horrible car accident. The passenger side of his car ended up nothing more than a mess of metal, but thankfully it was empty that day.
People run late all the time, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference most days, but my brother not being ready that morning is the reason he is still alive today. This is an extreme case, but it’s an idea that always holds true. Take any event from your life and try to figure out what led up to it. At the core of it all will be the starting point – the theoretical butterfly flapping its wings.
So many little things could lead to something greater. Maybe you wake up one morning and it’s raining, so you can’t go play football with some friends. Well guess what? You were scheduled to break your leg getting tackled that day. Or maybe you’ll find a 5 dollar bill on the street and treat yourself to McDonalds. However, once you get your food you find a severed body part in your french fries, sue the McDonalds Corporation for tons of money, and never have to work again. On top of that, the only reason you found the 5 dollar bill is because a leaf fell from a tree and landed next to it, catching your attention at the right time. It all starts with an insignificant action.
Sure, I’m making situations up now, but these things do happen. This has affected how I look at life today. I never discount the little things, and I have become the type of person who carefully plans out life while thinking of possible outcomes instead of living in retrospect. It is impossible to play the “what if” game in life because the smallest change can affect everything (I learned that from watching Back to the Future). Sometimes it is hard to tell, but the little things that happen are what drive every major event that occurs. They are in essence the mechanics of everyday life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.