The Ripples of our Actions

butterflyPerhaps you have heard of the butterfly effect The name of the effect is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.

I truly believe that our actions create reactions, and we often know little of those reactions or consequences. Although many find the word consequence to be of a negative connotation, a consequence is simply a result or effect of an action or condition.

I try to think of the consequences of my actions, but I am well aware that I have no idea of the breath of depth of these outcomes. I take pleasure in reading stories of a pay-it-forward type of action that trickles down and affect dozen, hundreds or many even thousands. A simple one that I read about of late was an unbroken chain of pay-it-forward coffee chain at a local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. The “I’ll pay for a coffee of the next person behind me” action lasted almost the entire day shift! What a fun and encouraging event.

Our words have immense consequences, both positive and negative. A genuine compliment, a kind uplifting comment or an encouraging statement can change someone’s day in a matter of minutes. Conversely, a insulting comment derogatory words can negatively impact someone’s self confidence. All our actions have the possibility of uplifting or bringing down people.

This past week I was privy to an action that created nothing but anger, disappointment and a lot of head shaking. I participated in one of the city’s largest craft fair, offering my handcrafted folded fabric ornaments. I take pride in my work and ensure that only the best quality ornaments are offered to the public. I carefully measure each piece of fabric that is used, and I constantly check for accurate creation of the end product.

As we were setting up for the 6 day fair, a letter was circulated that informed us artists of a certain group of women who would be having lunch outside the craft fair area, and would  then visit the various kiosks. When I chanced outside the craft area I was privy to admire the many women that were dressed with class and affluence. There was an air of sophistication that could be felt as I watched them mingle drinking unique cocktails and chatting away. BCF 2We were asked to consider giving a donation to the group. Knowing a bit about this group and some philanthropic activities, I opted to donate a Breast Cancer ornament whose profits are returned to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I felt this was an appropriate donation given these were women and the likelyhood that most knew someone who had been affected by this disease.

A few days later, I was told that my ornament was in the back office, and it wasn’t used for the networking event because it’s value was far below the expected $100 value. I stood there in utter shock. None of us knew of this arbitrary expectation of donation value. I’ve run events and when there are donations that are of lesser value, we bundle them up to create a combined prize, therefore, the fact the donation was of lower value did not negate its potential for a nice combined gift.

I felt quite insulted that someone based on their own judgement deemed a donation to lack worthiness for their event. Giving it back seemed to be akin of a virtual slap in the face and a pure dismissal. Somewhat like leaving a penny tip to a waiter – worse than not leaving a tip at all, a penny tip is a loud and clear statement of unworthiness. I discussed this situation with many of my neighbor artists of the craft fair, and each and every one of them (men and women) felt this was appalling, insulting and devoid of compassion and gratitude.

It is unfortunate that the actions of one sole person who had the task of managing the donations tarnished the reputation of the entire group. In reading the profiles of some of the group’s leaders, I don’t doubt that most would not have acted this way, however, the only action we were privy to experience was that of the outright rejection of a valid albeit less expensive gift, and one associated with a cause, no less!

A few hours later, the rejected beautiful ornament (I may add as per all the feedback I received) was rightfully bestowed as a gift to someone who battled breast cancer and was now in remission. This person will appreciate this small token as a true gift of caring for what this recipient has gone through to win her battle. This gift would  not be looked upon as lacking a set value of X dollars, or a well-known label of X name.

ripplesWe can recognize that the power of our actions, immediate or delayed affect others. Perhaps if we consciously take a moment or two before making our decisions, we might recognize that like the beating of the proverbial butterfly wings, our actions will have rippled effects… hopefully positive ones!