Sunday, March 30, 2008

Project 10 - We Are All Butterflies

Objective - Inspire your audience to noble motives

One miserable rainy night, a man named Mark decided to end his life. He had never been married, never had kids, had never known the joy of spending vacations with family, both his parents had been dead for seven years and he had a sister with whom he had lost touch. He held a menial job that left him unfulfilled. He felt as if nobody in the entire world cared if he lived or died.

While walking thus, for some reason Mark walked upto a house and knocked on their door. As he sat with the family narrating his woes, the family’s 6-year old son peeped from the staircase. His heart ached at the sight of this crying man. He ran upstairs and dug into his money jar. He pulled out as much money he could from what he was saving to buy his favourite game and ran back. He went upto Mark and handed him the money along with a warm hug. Mark was overwhelmed. He said, "Its just that I thought nobody cared. For the last twenty years I had been so alone. That was the first hug I have gotten in I don’t know how long. Its hard to believe that some body cares."

As Mark started to leave, the little boy’s mother asked Mark why he had chosen their door among all the others on the street.

Mark told her that while walking he read the bumper sticker on the family’s car. It said, ‘Somebody Loves You’.

Good Afternoon Fellow Toastmasters and Guests.

There is a theory in science called the Chaos Theory. It is more popular as the Butterfly Effect. And this Butterfly Effect saved Mark’s life that night.

The theory says - "The flapping of a single butterfly's wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month's time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn't happen. Or maybe one that wasn't going to happen, does."

It may happen that small differences in the initial conditions produce very great ones in the final phenomena. A small error in the former will produce an enormous error in the latter. There is even a movie The Butterfly Effect and it is very aptly sub-titled - Change One Thing, Change Everything.

Just like the Butterfly Effect, a small unknowingly kind gesture by that family of putting the right bumper sticker changed the course of Mark’s life that night. After that night he kept in constant touch with them and found a life again.

We all in our daily interaction as humans, constantly say or do things that have consequences for others also - both emotional and otherwise. One kind word from us can mean the world to another. One scathing remark can scar someone else. We all are butterflies with the potential to cause emotional tornadoes!

I remember the first time someone came up to me after a speech and paid a compliment - "I enjoyed listening to you." Even today if I feel apprehensive before a speech, just a recollection of those words, of the way the person said it and of how I felt quells all doubt and reinforces my confidence. Just one compliment made a difference to me as a speaker forever. So, take the time and pay a compliment if you genuinely like something...the recipient will never be the same again because you told her that she was good!

Say things you want to, are dying to. Every time you are in a dilemma of how it would be received, think of the boy who had a big crush on this girl in High School, but he never told her fearing that she might not reciprocate and might reject him. At a reunion many years later, while talking about her to a common friend this boy came to know that the girl had a crush on him too and kept waiting till the last day for him to say something!

If only that boy had kept his fear of rejection aside and said I Love You, he would have changed the course of his own life and also the girl’s. So, say I Love You. You might be doing yourself a favour. Say I Love You to your parents, siblings, dearest friends, and add a tinge of love to their daily lives. They will thank you for making their day!

On the other hand, don’t say things that are unnecessary and hurtful, like screaming "You’re such an idiot!" at someone out of sheer frustration. We learn continually at Toastmasters that the harshest of criticism can be delivered in the nicest manner if we show some respect. Let us keep in mind the erudite words, ‘They’ll not remember what you said but they will never forget how they felt.’ And that applies to both nice things and nasty. Remember the Polite Pig from the movie Babe? That animal was delivering a powerful message - everything can be achieved through nicety and politeness. As the Japanese say, ‘One kind word can warm three winter months.’

It takes very simple gestures to change lives. I have this friend whom I generally meet in CafĂ© Coffee Day whenever he comes down to Bangalore. This guy always takes a moment to read the name of the person taking the order, say Raj, and then request, "Hi Raj! Could I get some Cappucino please?" I have seen the person’s face light up like nobody’s business. It gives them a sense of being more than an anonymous face bringing you coffee. Maybe that guy has had a bad day. Maybe his boss is giving him a hard time. Maybe he is thinking of quitting. Who knows, such a simple gesture will make him feel better and keep him at the good job he is doing!

We sometimes do unpleasant things not because we want to hurt others but because we are unaware that our actions affect more than just us. Driving on the road is a highly dependent activity. Yet, we end up doing things shifting lanes without checking blind spots on autopilot. These may have dire consequences for others, like death! We use mobile phones in Hospitals when it is against the rules. I understand our near and dear need to be kept informed. But the same can be done by going just outside the building. There is this incident where a little girl on Life Support lost her life in an operation because somebody used the cell phone outside the OT and it interfered with the life support system.

I understand that life has these ways of throwing surprises at us and the daily grind of dealing with them makes us preoccupied. But if we can make just a little effort, be a little aware of the world around us, of the people around us and of their feelings, we would have played our part.

We had this story in our 8th standard English Textbook. A man, let’s call him John, and his friend step out of a taxi cab and after paying up John tells the taxi cab driver, "You are doing a very good job." When John’s friend requests an explanation John says that he wanted the taxi driver to feel good. And because he felt good and appreciated he would probably be nice to his wife and kids. The wife might in turn be nice to the neighbours and the storekeepers and even put in an extra effort in her day’s work. John wanted this feel-good effect to cascade. Like the Butterfly Effect through being nice to just one person...making this world a better place.

Ultimately, this is not just about us. Let us all try to Heal the World, to treat another human’s heart as carefully as the fragile porcelain vases and expensive cars that we value. Let us look before we leap, think before we speak. Because we are butterflies and our actions have huge consequences. So the next time you are about to say something or maintain silence, do something or refrain from it, all I request you to do is think about the next few steps that will follow the result of your decision, think for a moment and then proceed.

In the book the Alchemist, when a butterfly flutters between the old man and Santiago, the old man tells him that Butterflies are a good omen. So let us not be butterflies that cause emotional tornadoes. Let us be good omens for whoever’s lives we touch. Let us be The Alchemist’s Butterflies.


Cosmonaut said...

you should read this book 'God's Debris' by Douglas Adams


Anupama Kondayya said...

Hey Cosmonaut,

I have read that one....what a phenomenal book it is!

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment :)