Ripples

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Find a pond on a calm day, a day without wind.  Throw something, perhaps a pebble.  Nothing big.  Watch the reaction spread.  Something small grows, becomes more than what you started.  Throw something a little bigger.  The ripples are larger, spread faster, become more.  And if that rock, the stone is big enough, the ripples spread the entire length, the width, of the pond.  They reflect, merge, and become more.

There is this an idea, a theory, “The Butterfly Effect”.  It’s the concept that a small thing can grow and become something bigger.  A simple example is that a butterfly, flapping its wings on the coast of Africa, can create a minor disturbance in the air that could grow into a hurricane.  I recently watched a movie that showed how true this can be.

Every one of us impacts the world around us.  The reality is that we rarely get to see how what we’ve done changes things.  I’ve been a teacher, a coach, and more.  One of my proudest moments when I coached soccer was when I saw a twelve-year-old girl change things because I helped her learn to think, to see.

When I start to coach a new team I ask a simple question: “Does the team with the best soccer skills win a game?”  All the girls would say “yes”.  And I’d reply, yeah, I guess if we were playing a professional team.  But not only are their soccer skills better, there is more.  Winning a soccer game is a combination of soccer skills, physical conditioning, and seeing, knowing the game.  So what happened during that game with the twelve year old?  The team we were playing was over-committing on defense, bunching up.  Most coaches would yell “pass the ball to….” and the opponents would look to see who.  Instead, on a throw in, I said “Where is….?”  And the reply was just a nod.  She knew.  She handled the throw in, took the pass back, made a perfect pass to a wide-open player.  Next?  Bad shot.  Missed.  Didn’t matter.  I had helped someone to see the soccer field in a better, more open way.  We all have an opportunity, if we try, to change how people see, to change the world.  I knew that coaching kids, young girls, that what I was teaching wasn’t just a game, it was to see the world, to think differently.  I have no idea where it may lead them, how it may change their lives.  I don’t get to see that.  I don’t know, yet I dream that one day they’ll be sitting in a meeting somewhere, perhaps in their 30’s and will make a decision based on an idea of teamwork, of inclusion, and that perhaps I helped influence that decision.

So….  About that movie…  It seems that there is some guy named “Rodriguez”.  By most estimations, at least when judging a musician, he was a failure.  Barely sold any records.  Made two albums.  Got cut by his record label.  If you see what he did with his life outside his music he is way more than a failed musician, he’s a success as a human being.  But as a musician most would deem him a failure.  Except something funny happened with his music.  He helped stop apartheid.  Yeah, you read that right.  HE HELPED STOP APARTHEID.  Probably played a part in Nelson Mandela being released.  Really.  Not kidding.  And he didn’t even know it.  He wrote, recorded, set his message loose on the world, and it somehow was heard in South Africa.  AND HE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT.  Some guy, who had never been to South Africa, who didn’t know his records had been sold there, helped stop apartheid.  OK.  Makes no sense.  But watch the movie and see.  Yeah, a butterfly effect.  Set an idea loose and it can change the world.  I have no idea who said that you can kill a person but you can’t kill an idea.  Yet with Rodriguez his idea spread and changed the world.  Oh, good news.  He wasn’t killed.  Watch the movie.  He found out what he did.

Alas, I went to the Women’s March.  Or as I prefer to call it, in Boston at least, the Women’s Stand.  There were too many to march.  Roads were blocked so we stood.  And I wondered.  Did we change anything?  I won’t ever know.  The ripples spread.  Four died at Kent State.  They woke up people who didn’t see, wouldn’t hear.  Things happen that we can’t anticipate.

So don’t quit.  The message is heard in ways we don’t understand.  Sixto Rodriguez helped light a fire that ended apartheid.  Little things matter.  Every one of us has a teacher, a mentor, a friend, or parent that inspired us to change, be better.  Sometimes we don’t even know it.  And every one of us has the potential to be that inspiration who changes someone’s world.  I guess I’m lucky.  I know one of the people who helped me find a profession, a direction in life.  He’s part of who I am today.  He may even read this.  We should all be so lucky.

Resist.  That is the main point.  Resist.  Grow and don’t stop.  It all matters.

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