We've all heard it before: nothing lasts forever. From material things, to people and relationships, business deals, good and bad times alike, everything has its end. You can examine that what's born is bound to die, what's built will be destroyed, for it's just a matter of time.
I don't believe it.
When I was a senior in high school I was friendly with this girl, we'll call her Amanda. Amanda was beautiful, so very smart, funny, athletic and compassionate, but she never recognized that because she struggled with depression. She never believed she was good enough, and it didn't help that she was constantly bullied and berated. I was relentlessly bullied also in 8th grade, so I knew how it felt - nearly everyone does. One day during the latter half of the year I spontaneously called her just to check in and see how she was doing. She told me she was doing just fine, and that she was studying for her AP exams. I asked Amanda if she'd be interested in taking a study break to join me for a walk, and after some hesitation, she obliged.
I pulled up to the local park where we agreed to meet; a beautiful park, really, with ponds, trails through the woods, and baseball fields. Amanda walked up to me with tears streaming down her face, and not knowing what else to do, I gave her a hug. We went for our walk and talked quite a bit, and I had soon learned Amanda was about to take her own life when I had called. She's currently studying life sciences and is at the top of her class.
Fast forward a year. I'm a freshman in college living in an affluent neighborhood. Homelessness is nearly nonexistent in said neighborhood, so when I started noticing an older woman riding a bicycle with garbage bags hanging from the handlebars, I didn't quite recognize that she was homeless. After seeing her several times, though, I overcame my ignorance and realized that she was, indeed, homeless. The next time I saw her I stopped to talk to her. She told me about her former life, one in which her daughter was diagnosed with cancer, the mounting medical bills pushing her out onto the streets. She told me she rides around on her bicycle aimlessly, her only two destinations being her daughter's grave and the food pantry. She had no cellphone, no family, no help.
I was dumbstruck. I had never so much as imagined so much pain and suffering, never-mind recognize its reality. Anyways, I took her to the local Holiday Inn and paid a few weeks' stay with complimentary breakfast and dinner buffets, and never saw her again.
Two years later I'm in Walmart and a manager in a yellow vest briskly walks up to me as I walk out the door. My heart skips a beat, wondering if I'm about to be accused of shoplifting in front of everyone. I was dead wrong: it was the homeless woman, with a fresh haircut, earrings, and makeup on her smiling face. She told me having a consistent place to stay with Internet, a shower and food enabled her to apply to Walmart and pay for the bus ticket to get there everyday. She then rented an apartment nearby and later purchased a car so that she could commute to the community college for nursing classes.
While I am no longer in high school or college, while I don't see these people anymore, the impact I've had on their lives and those around them will last forever in one way or another. The butterfly effect is the idea that small things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system. The concept is imagined with a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a typhoon. Of course, a single act like the butterfly flapping its wings cannot cause a typhoon. Small events can, however, serve as catalysts that act on starting conditions. In other words, absolutely everything we do (or don't do) is important. Every action we take or word we speak has an impact that will last forever. Now the question is: what will you do?