Life Unwound: The ripple effect of small actions

“A single act of kindness throws roots in all directions, and the roots sprout and form new trees.”

– Amelia Earhart

I followed my young children and turned off the lights as they left the rooms. It was about money. I thought about the electricity bill, which my husband said had only saved pennies. Then I came up with another reason – to save electricity that I didn’t understand. I didn’t know words like “grid”.

Susan Lebel Young, retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher, is the author of three books. Her latest is “Grandkids as Gurus: Lessons for Grownups”. Learn more at susanlebeyoung.com or by email [email protected]

Today I turn off the lights when I leave a room and flinch when I enter the house and find that all the lights are bright, the house is lit. When I was visiting my daughter and her four children, I noticed that she was leaving the lights on – even in empty rooms.

So my curiosity was piqued last week when her daughter, 6-year-old Brooke, pranced from room to room, switching light after light. Methodical, jumping like Dorothy with Toto, she clicked her heels and snapped her fingers. A proud first year smiled as she whizzed through her mission. I wondered if this sparked an anti-mom rebellion and asked, “Brookie, what are you doing?”

She stopped her hopping step, raised her eyebrows, stared at me as if I had just asked a strange question and said soberly, “I’ll turn off the light.”

I said, “I can see that. Why?”

She looked at me, her obviously stupid, weird grandmother, put her hands on her hips, tilted her cute blonde head and replied as if she were mumbling “duh”, “for the animals”.

Maybe strange, I had to know. “How does it help animals to turn off the lights in this house at the end of this city street, far from farms?”

She rolled her eyes at my stupidity, circled her arms and wiggled her ponytail as she explained, “Because lights make the house warm and then the heat escapes the house and the world heats up and warmth in the world is bad for animals. “

I shrugged my shoulders, said “Hmmm” when she nodded and pointed to a “Doncha know?” Way, then skipped to finish their task.

I flashed at the butterfly effect as a small act spreads outward into a larger change. Can a butterfly flapping its wings in Toledo cause a hurricane in Hawaii? That sounded woo-woo to me when I first heard it. Now physics is hugging it. Now it shows up in chaos theory.

Maybe what we do is important, small acts like a smile on the mail clerk, who then smiles at the next customer, who then smiles and hugs his troubled child. Or get a vaccine, a small act that will help protect the grandchildren who will not infect their teachers who will not infect their partners. A small act that has more and more influence.

My buddy Peter sent me an idea for such a ripple effect. He wanted help in implementing federal policy in dealing with climate change. He wrote, “Please write and / or call our senators in the next two weeks and get 1, 2, 5, or 10 more people to do the same to lobby for a bill that will propose a price for Determine CO2 as CO2 emissions are most important. ”Driving force behind climate change. If Maine hits its state goal of 350 calls and other states hit their goal, we will have 10,000 messages to Congress by mid-August. Here is the link: cclusa.org/senate. Thanks very much!”

I did it. It’s easy, took less than a minute.

It is important that we go from room to room in our private private homes to help the public, the collective and, yes, the web and the animals. Small actions are important.

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