This I Believe

Walter - Carrollton, Texas
Entered on January 20, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe that there is no act too small, too inconsequential, or too minor to matter. I know this applies to every act whether good, neutral, or bad, and that the consequences reflect their source. Acts flow from my physical action, from words I may speak, and especially, my mental intent.

I am reflecting this morning upon a very small act that occurred in 1964 when I was 10 and somewhat precociously engaged in studies of computing and astronomy. I was living in central Ohio, and came across a scientific paper published by a Dr. Gerald Hawkins in England, titled “Stonehenge Decoded.” I, a fascinated 10 year old, was trying very hard to decode that paper. I wrote the author a letter, having no idea of his preeminence, but completely enthused with the subject. Several weeks later I received a parcel from Dr. Hawkins that included a personal note, encouragement to study, and additional observations, data, diagrams, and commentary about the astronomical and mathematical alignments of Stonehenge and other ancient sites in the United Kingdom. I spent months pouring over that material, building models, and learning enough math to follow his arguments. I’ve spent years since then marveling over that act of kindness and the impact it made on my life since.

While I did not become a scientist, I have spent the ensuing 44 years pursuing a career in computing. Time and again I reflect on the tremendous influence for his investment of 10 or 15 minutes. When I consider how Dr. Hawkins’ kindness motivates me, to this day, to treat everyone respectfully and offer encouragement, I see how his act, 44 years ago, lives on. It is amplified through my acts and through the acts of anyone I may have encouraged along the way.

I find it very interesting how action takes on a life of its own from the instant it is born. A chain of subsequent moments and subsequent results carries on long into the future. Once released, this chain reaction is completely beyond anyone’s ability to curtail. I find too that the impact and result of an act does not die away, as one might casually assume. To the contrary, it grows in scope and breadth of influence as time moves on.

So I try hard to find in every moment and every interaction even the smallest opportunity to commit acts of kindness, encouragement, and compassion. It matters.