Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Might Be Your Butterfly Effect?

Every day of our lives we could be impacting those around us and maybe even the world at large in ways we may never know. Who knows where an act of kindness might end, or something we teach another, or words of encouragement for someone at a critical time could be the catalyst, the butterfly wing, that changes the direction of someone's life. Who knows the ripples that will flow from such tiny events that can change the world.

Consider the story of Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize winner who is credited for saving at least two billion lives from starvation from his research and development of drought resistant grain hybrids. I knew I liked him when I learned that he was a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame who is credited with being the catalyst to start high school wrestling in Minnesota.

"Wrestling taught me some valuable lessons ... I always figured I could hold my own against the best in the world. It made me tough. Many times, I drew on that strength. It's an inappropriate crutch perhaps, but that's the way I'm made". Norman Borlaug.

Okay, so he saved two billion lives, was it him, or should we actually give some of that credit to Vice President Henry Wallace, FDR's second VP? Wallace was previously the Secretary of Agriculture, who through his influence as VP persuaded the Rockefeller Foundation to invest in Borlaug’s research making his discoveries possible. Wallace had a lifelong passion for experimenting with crops to help feed more of the worlds people. Without this passion of Wallace, Borlaug's research was floundering away in Mexico.

So, then should we share the credit with both Borlaug and Wallace, but maybe we should look back further. There was a young college student who was studying and experimenting with crops who a college president had allowed to live with them while he was in school. Part of how he paid his room and board was he helped look out for their young son and often took him with him on nature walks studying the crops and let him watch and participate with him in his experiments. That young boy was Henry Wallace, that student was George Washington Carver. So should the credit then go to Carver as well?

Okay, now we have Borlaug, Wallace, and George Washington Carver who had an impact on saving those two billion lives. However, should we look just a bit further?

In the mid 1800s there was a raid on a community of Free African Americans in Missouri. The village was destroyed and the people captured to be taken to Arkansas to sell back into slavery. One of the youngest was a very small baby. A local farmer and his wife were heartbroken by this attack and Susan Carver was able to find a way to get a message to those raiders and negotiate a price to return that baby. She sent her husband Moses to ride to a meeting place near the Arkansas line where he traded their last horse for that stolen baby. The raiders threw a sack toward Moses and he caught that nearly frozen child inside. He took him and put him under his shirt and coat to try to warm him and rushed back home to Susan who nursed this baby back to health. Moses and Susan a white farmer couple adopted this child as their own and gave him their last name and raised George Washington Carver.

It could easily be said if not for Moses and Susan Carver those two billion people would have starved.

You never know what you may do or say that might make a difference to someone who might make a difference to millions. I know that helps me to keep a bit of perspective and try to leave people lifted.