Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What does it Matter?

Part I - You are Magnificent

But….’so what’ you ask?

‘so what that I am here. What does it matter?’

We affect more than we know.

In 1961 Edward Lorenz used a computer model to run a weather prediction.

He discovered that by slightly changing the initial information that was fed to the model (inputting the number .506 instead of entering the full .506127) the weather prediction could be substantially different.

For example...if shortly after a hurricane formed...you moved it a few inches.... the course of the storm would become increasingly different and could eventually vary by hundreds of miles.

This gave birth to the idea of ‘Sensitive dependence on Initial Condition’ or…the ‘Butterfly Effect’ which puts forth the question Could the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas ?

Or…to put it simply…the idea that….very small changes can make a very big difference.

Often…that difference is unintended….or accidental.

I remember a story that our priest told when I was in the second grade. Well…I don’t remember the STORY really…I have no idea what his point..or the moral was….but…what I can recall is “Sometimes…your dad might have a bad day at work…so he comes home in a grumpy mood….and talks in a grouchy tone to your mother…..so now your mother isn’t happy….and when your big brother comes in the room she starts screaming at him about something or other….so now HE is angry….so he comes into your bedroom and starts picking on YOU….and that makes YOU really angry…so you go outside and kick the dog.”

Again….I have no idea where he ended up going with that…but….that sequence of events stuck in my mind…how…..this poor dog is just going about his day…minding his business…and just because some guy had a bad day at the office…some KID kicks him!”

* * * * *

I have been affected by many people that have crossed my path….relatives, teachers, friends….but even strangers have affected me in profound ways.

I lost a wallet once. It was two days before Christmas and I had just begun to shop. I had several hundred dollars (Christmas money) in my wallet…and quite a few credit cards. I was making purchases when I realized the wallet was gone. I panicked. I returned to the store where I had previously made purchases…it wasn’t there.

I hurried home…to get on the phone.

I began making the calls…to cancel the cards, one by one. I was so upset…there was no way to get replacement cards in time for me to complete my shopping…what would I do? I had a checkbook…but no driver’s license….think think think…call the next one.

While I was making my second call my doorbell rang.

It was a woman and a teenage girl….standing there….holding my wallet.

I couldn’t believe it….it had fallen out of my purse in the parking lot….they got my address from my driver’s license….said they weren’t in a hurry and they figured I’d be upset…so they just brought it on over.

I wanted to give them a reward…I was so appreciative…they would have none of it.

I have no idea what I would’ve done if they hadn’t returned the wallet…they gave me my Christmas….and to this day…many years later….I get a warm feeling when I think of them….they affect me still.

* * * *

I was out of town for a convention a number of years back. My hotel was about eight blocks from the center where the convention was held.

I walked the eight blocks to the center every morning…and back every evening. There were many homeless people. Tons. It was a touristy area and likely a decent place to get handouts.

The last night there, I stayed for the later sessions…as I started back to the hotel…I was exhausted…my feet hurt sooooooo bad…it was dark and there weren’t so many people on the street…it was a little scary.

As I crossed the first street, on my way back, there was a man, a homeless man and he was shouting “Please help me, I’m so hungry! Please…Please help me…I’m so hungry!”

He wasn’t shouting it at me…he was shouting it at the world….I walked past him without meeting his eye.

I kept walking…my feet….hurt so bad….and then…I realized what I’d done…I just walked by a human being….a hungry human being-- without a second glance…or even a thought.

I’d had an unpleasant experience with a homeless person prior to this incident and at that time I decided I would never give money….food, anything else that I could give…but not money.

But….most everything was closed…what to do?

When I get to the hotel…there are several cabs parked out front..so I approach them….ask one of the drivers if he could drive me to the nearest grocery story….’grocery store?’ He asked…’there’s not one anywhere near here…what do you need?’

I explained about the man down the road…and that I wanted to purchase food for him…the taxi driver tells me that there’s a Burger King a few blocks “that way”.

A few more blocks.


My feet

But I walked…to Burger King…and on the way….I thought about all of the OTHER homeless people that I’d seen since I’d been there…there were dozens….so I went inside..and ordered twenty hamburgers.

I walked the dozen or so blocks all the way back to the screaming guy. He was still screaming “I’m so hungry!” so I approached him…took three hamburgers out of the bag and said “I’m sorry you’re hungry….I bought this for you”

He looked at me with disgust and said “I don’t want that shit! I want money…I will buy the food *I* want! I wouldn’t put that shit in my body!”

“well then” I said “It seems that you’re not very hungry after all”

He continued to scream and curse at me as I walked away.

I was furious….but then I thought…

Maybe *HE* isn’t hungry…but that doesn’t mean that *SOME* of these people are not….so I walked
And I walked
And I handed out burgers to every person I saw that looked like they could use a burger…and that one man…the screaming man…was the only one who was not appreciative.

If not for him…likely I wouldn’t have fed anyone that night.

He affected me….he made me behave differently than I would have otherwise.…..he fed people that night….and he didn’t even know it….he will never know.

* * * *

The fact that you exist …..makes the world a different place…..than it would be…if there were no you.

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