“It has been said something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.”
This is the opening line of the movie The Butterfly Effect that I watched last week while with my team at cross country camp in Big Bear. One of my runners asked me to explain the quote, which then sparked a discussion on chaos theory.
I explained how something that may seem completely unrelated to us has shaped our lives dramatically. I gave them the example of how if not for the tragic events on September 11, 2001, few of us would be sitting here in Big Bear right now. They were skeptical until I began to give some background on my personal history.
In May 2001, I graduated from college and went on to spend a month traveling through Europe. When I returned in late July, I began looking for a job in the field of business. About a month later, I found one at a sales/marketing firm in Burbank. I despised the job and quit about two weeks later on September 10, 2001. Of course, the next day was the day of infamy, which had huge economic impacts, among others. People were being laid off left and right and there were few companies hiring.
Being bored, unemployed, and having a lot of time on my hands, I began spending time with Coach Shaw and his Burbank High cross country team. It was Mr. Shaw who began encouraging me to go back to school to get my teaching credential. At first I ignored his advice, thinking the last thing I wanted to do was spend another couple years in school after having already spent the previous five years earning my bachelor’s degree. However, as time went on and I began getting more involved with the team, my yearning to become a teacher and a coach grew. In November, I finally made the decision to apply for the teaching credential program at Chico State University. In the meantime, I got a job working for my dad’s friend in the insurance business to save money for college.
In June 2004, with my credential work completed, I got a job at my alma mater, Burbank High School, as an English teacher and assistant cross country coach. When school began in September, I personally recruited several people who were sitting in the room with me that day at Big Bear. Suddenly they saw the connection that if not for the incidents of September 11, they would never have met me and, therefore, in all likelihood, never joined the cross country team.
Later, I began looking deeper into my past to see what other examples of chaos theory have shaped my life. To my horror, I realized that I am alive at the expense of millions of dead Jews. If not for Hilter’s tyranny, I would never have been born.
My paternal grandparents were born in the same small town in New York. However in 1939, at the age of 19, my grandfather, still a bachelor, moved out west to California with no plans of ever returning. Things don’t always go as planned though, and some things are out of one’s control.
The United States got pulled into a war being fought on the other side of the world, necessitating the need for a draft to be instated. In 1942, my grandfather, like most men his age, was drafted to fight for his country. He was ordered to go back to New York to report for boot camp. However, after a couple weeks, he was dismissed from boot camp, because he had ulcers that doctors deemed made him unfit to be a soldier.
Free to do as he pleased, my grandfather went back to his hometown to visit his parents. While there, he was introduced to Olga Mancini – my grandmother.
If not for Hilter’s reign of evil, my grandfather would have stayed in California and never met my grandmother.
If not for my grandfather’s ulcers, which almost took his life at a young age, he very possibly could have gone to war and died never having met my grandmother.
It is purely by dumb luck that I am here today, and I bet if you look at your own history close enough, you’ll find the same thing.