In this brief, yet amazingly inspirational book, Andy Andrews reminds us that we, like butterflies, have the power within, through our actions, attitude, and words to impact everyone we encounter. Having survived homelessness, Andrews, through a man named Jones, was offered guidance that would radically change his life. ‘“With a little perspective,” Jones said one day, “you can live a life of permanent purpose….When you know that everything matters—that every move counts as much as any other---you will begin living a life of permanent purpose….(which) will make you a better parent, a better spouse and a more valuable friend.”’ (author’s note).
In 1963 Edward Lorenz presented to the New York Academy of Science a hypothesis stating that a butterfly could flap its wings and cause air molecules to go into motion, which would in turn cause other molecules to move, and so forth, until eventually, on the other side of the planet, a hurricane would form. His idea was deemed ridiculous; that is, until some thirty years later several physics professors turned Lorenz’s hypothesis into The Law of sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions (p. 80).
So Andrews shares examples of how the butterfly effect works through the lives of ordinary humans who, because of their fortitude and courage, have impacted our world. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a colonel in the Union army in 1863, fought to keep the Confederate Army back. In spite of losing most of his troops, in the end, Chamberlain’s decisions and actions caused the rebels to win at Gettysburg. “Which means: When Hitler swept across Europe in the 1940s, had Chamberlain not charged on that afternoon so long ago, there would not have existed a United States of America to stand in the breach.” (p. 50).
In 2004 Norman Borlaugi, age 91, was honored by ABC News as “Person of the Week”. Ever heard of him? Neither had most people at that time! Yet, Norman generated corn and wheat in arid climates, saving more than two billion lives from famine. However, Norman was not really the one who saved the lives; rather, it was Henry Wallace, VP under Franklin Roosevelt, who created a business in Mexico to hybridize corn and wheat for those climates, and hired Norman Borlaugi to run the company. Was it really Wallace that caused the butterfly or ripple effect… or was it really George Washington Carver who, being interested in plants from a young age, eventually developed 266 things we use the peanut for today? Or was it a boy named Moses….
“Is there an ending to this story? Exactly who was it that saved the two billion lives? Is there a specific person to whom we could point? How far back would be have to go? How many lives would we need to examine in order to determine who it really was whose action saved two billion people…a number that continues to increase every minute? And how far forward would we need to go in your life to show the difference you make?” (pp. 100-101).
In a companion book for children of all ages entitled The Boy Who Changed the World Andrews delightfully shares the same story, which not only entertains, but teaches the principle that “You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.” (p. 105).
Great book to give to those needed encouragement…or those graduating…or anyone you care about!
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