The Butterfly Effect & Pay It Forward

I am fascinated by the concept called the ”Butterfly Effect” – One seemingly small action can lead to significant and lasting change. The term is attributed to Edward Norton Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist, studying weather, who stated that a butterfly flapping it’s wings in Brazil could cause a tornado in Texas. Not directly, but through the process of every little action being part of a cause and effect relationship. I’ve read somewhere that he first proposed the Seagull Effect but Butterfly Effect was what stuck. I think that it’s a little more poetic.

And more subtle change. Imagine such a delicately and brilliantly engineered tiny creature having such an impact. Of course the metaphor does not necessarily literally mean one butterfly flapping it’s wings but it does make me wonder. I mean Monarch Butterflies migrate each year from Canada to Mexico – a 3000 mile flight to overwinter. That’s no small feat. Ripple effects are everywhere.

I was reminded this week that we can have a ripple effect on people even when we are not consciously aware of it. I put out this little podcast to share ideas and weave in life lessons of which I have been the very fortunate recipient. And my book talks about what I have learned over the past few years and what initiated the changes in my life as I describe my solo motorcycle ride across Canada. In chatting with an old friend a few days ago, she mentioned that she reread the book to remind herself of a few of those lessons. All this was happening although I had not spoken to her directly for several years.

Have you ever stopped to think about how your very presence can have an impact on people that you come across in your day? I’ve walked into the office in a less than stellar mood only to a surprise visit from an upbeat colleague that turned my day around. And, when I worked outside the home, I used to bring home-made cookies to the office on a regular basis just because.  It was fun to watch people appreciate an unexpected treat in their day. And it works the other way around. Have you encountered someone was ticked off at something and decided that you were the lucky winner in their search to find someone to listen. Not always easy conversations.

We are contagious in how we show up in the world. And we get to choose how that is – each and every one of us each and every moment. Sounds like a lot pressure doesn’t it? In fact, it frees us to own our lives and our actions. 

I was reminded of the movie “Pay it Forward” from 2000 in which a teacher challenged his students to do something helpful for someone, anyone, without expecting anything in return. Well – except expecting that the recipient would, in turn, follow through and do something good for someone else. And it had to be something that required effort or sacrifice. 

And, what a coincidence! A google search revealed that this coming Thursday, April 228, 2022 is Pay It Forward Day. I had never heard of it – the annual day is based on the book and movie of the same name – written by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The Pay It Forward yearly event was initiated by Blake Beattie, an Australian businessman who wanted to challenge the idea that despite the fact that the concept was being a great idea, it couldn’t work in practice.

On the website, it says “Do between one and three good deeds for others without asking for anything in return. Instead the recipient should be instructed to pay it forward to someone else in need.“  The idea has spread to over 80 countries. Canada officially joined the initiative in 2012. There is even a printable card on the site that you can use to pass it along. Millions of random acts of kindness – what a concept!

And, this week – April 24th – 30th is National Volunteer Week in Canada. According to a statement prepared by our Prime Minister to honour this week, over 24 million Canadians volunteer each year – that’s over 60% of our population. To recognize the efforts, Canada’s Volunteer Awards were created and are awarded in 5 different categories. 

A National Award called the Thérèse Casgrain Lifelong Achievement Award and 4 regional awards

 Community LeaderEmerging LeaderBusiness LeaderSocial Innovator

One nominee will be selected per category in each of the 5 following regions:

  • Atlantic (Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick)
  • Quebec
  • Ontario
  • Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta)
  • British Columbia and the North (Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon)

Nominations for the 2021 recipients have closed and will open again in the fall for 2022 nominees.

Incidently, Marie Thérèse Casgrain, CC OBE LL.D., née Forget was a French Canadian feminist, reformer, politician and senator. She was a leader in the fight for women’s right to vote in the province of Quebec, as well as the first woman to lead a political party in Canada. I 

So, how can you Pay It Forward on Thursday the 28th or any day for that matter? Do you know of a project that could use some help? With so many opportunities to do good – the only question to answer is where to start. 

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