Ever heard of the butterfly effect? The idea that when a butterfly flaps its wings it can set off a chain of events that grows to be gigantic. All of these stories start small and grow into something huge, just take a look for yourself!
1. An amazing teacher makes all the difference!
“Fifty years ago, in a college class, I sat next to a student who often spoke of his plans to marry his girlfriend and join the Peace Corps.
About 6 months later, he called to inform me that Peace Corps recruiters were on campus. Although I had no particular interest, on a whim, I went for an interview, a test, and an application. A few months later I was accepted for a Peace Corps program in Brazil.
After college and intense training, I was sent to a town in the “middle of nowhere” without full-time electricity, no running water, nor a sewage system. Even after weeks of Portuguese classes, I struggled to speak the language, but the Brazilians were warm, welcoming, and forgiving when I made mistakes.
I was assigned to teach English at a high school that had been in existence for only 3 years, but I also worked on community projects, and (with my BS in Art Education) created poster-sized illustrations from a medical book for the doctor who showed up once a week. He ran a small medical school in another town and sometimes had only one textbook. The illustrations were used to instruct his students.
When I left my Peace Corps service (1967-69), I was fluent in Portuguese and in love with Brazil, but ready to return home.
To be honest, I had little hope for my students. The town had few job opportunities. My students struggled to pay high school tuition and would have to move to another town, where they would be forced to pay room, board, and tuition to attend a colégio (similar to our last 2 years of high school.)
If they were able to do well there, and were lucky enough to earn a coveted spot at the Federal University in the capital city, tuition would be free. But I assumed few would be able to do that. After returning to the U.S., I didn’t know if I had made any difference in Brazil, even though I had certainly gained valuable experience for myself.
After losing touch with everyone I knew in Brazil, 40 years later I was able to contact someone via the internet who put me in touch with several former students. They invited me to visit.
On my return trip (2011), any doubts about my impact evaporated. Forty friends and former students met me at the airport. They hosted me in their homes, drove me all over the state, and arranged two dinners to honor me (40–80 guests at each). That “middle-of-nowhere” town had grown into a thriving metropolis.
The best part of my return trip was discovering that nearly all of my students had found a way to continue their educations. Four sisters had become agronomists, a job generally reserved for men. One man owned a multimillion-dollar advertising firm and employed most of his relatives. One had been the first woman to work for the Bank of Brazil. Others had become doctors, nurses, teachers, professors, engineers, social workers, business owners, economists, and more.
I don’t think a day has passed since my Peace Corps days when I haven’t thought about Brazil — its natural beauty, fabulous music and culture, and especially the wonderful Brazilians who were my students and became my friends. Despite later successes as a teacher, artist and writer, I still consider my Peace Corps experience as the most rewarding of my life — something that started on a mere whim.” Carol Peiffer
2. The biggest sewing machine in rock and roll history!
“I learned how to sew.
I know sewing doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it completely changed my life. Not only has it become my career, it’s actually made me kind of famous.
I appeared on the front page of the newspaper after working for Paul McCartney, and have since worked for over 40 other A-list touring artists.
I restored Janis Joplin’s Cape for the Hard Rock Cafe, which is now on display in San Francisco.
I was featured in Beyonce’s Formation World Tour Behind The Scenes Fashion Video, talking about the alterations we were doing to convert high-end fashion into to costumes.
I have my own design and production house where I design and sew for a living. I teach sewing, judge fashion competitions, consult with designers, and work on multi-million dollar film projects as a wardrobe consultant.
Sewing has lead me to some fabulous people, places and things in my life despite its simplicity.” Gina Vincenza Van Epps
3. It’s the little things that really make a difference
“I was living in New Jersey when my 10-year-old Ford Ranger failed a safety inspection. It was going to cost me around $1,500 to get the thing roadworthy according to the state. Spending that much to fix a vehicle worth $1,000 didn’t seem like a bright idea.
I mentioned my conundrum to a plumber who was working on my house that day. He offered to take it off my hands for $500. I thought about it for a minute, and decided to just give him the vehicle. It seemed like a nice thing to do, and it’s never a bad idea to have a plumber that owes you one. After I got out the title and signed it over to him, he thanked me profusely.
Shortly after this happened, I got divorced and moved out of town. Three years later, I was back in New Jersey when I ran into the plumber at a gas station. It was easy to recognize him, since he was still driving my truck and some of the issues that had caused me to fail inspection were still not fixed.
We chatted for a bit and exchanged pleasantries. As I was about to go, he grabbed my arm. and said he wanted to thank me again for the truck. Tears welled up in his eyes and he told me that because of my gift to him, he was able to buy Christmas presents for his kids that year. Remembering that still brings tears to my eyes.
Just because a gesture seems small to you doesn’t mean it’s small to someone else.” Sean Scully
4. An actual online dating success! Who’d have thunk!
“When I was in law school, a friend started using Tinder. I told him that he would never find someone nice, and he told me that I was wrong. So I bet him that it would be impossible for me to find a significant other on the internet. To make things interesting, our bet included other sites and apps too.
I enrolled in a site called OkCupid and answered a suite of questions. When I finished, the site told me that there was a person 93% compatible with me. I thought, “Well, 93%. That sounds like a lot.”
So, I sent a message. “Hey. We are 93% compatible, so I have to ask… What would you do in a Zombie Apocalypse?”
She responded by sending a picture of an axe with a sniper scope on it.
We’re getting married next year. Best lost bet ever.” Matheus Cangussu
5. You don’t mess with a hurricane!
“My mother-in-law was playing poker on the computer, and started talking to someone in Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina was coming and she spent 20 minutes convincing him to get out of there. He said, “I’m at my mother’s house. It has withstood 5 hurricanes. We are safe.”
My mother kept pushing and pushing until finally he agreed to take his mother and wife and they drive away. My mother gave him her email so that he could message to let her know he was okay.
Six or seven months later, she hadn’t received an email, and she feared they had left too late. One night, she was playing poker and saw the Louisiana guy’s username. He lived!
He recognized her username and asked if she was the lady who saved his family’s life. He said they went back to their house and the only thing left was the slab on which it was built. She was proud of herself and happy that she had saved three people’s lives.
You never know how you’ll end up making a difference.” Eleanor McMakin
“My father was a carpenter and cabinetmaker. He built our house and all the furniture in it. It was his joy. But in addition to being a carpenter, he was also something of a jerk – a strict and often violent father.
As a result, I grew up to despise him. My brothers and I were often called to help him on a job – which we had to do for free. One entire summer, we worked framing a house from May until September, for which we were paid a grand total of 100 dollars. So I swore that when I grew up I would never, ever pick up a hammer again. Ever.
And so it went. Unless I was forced to do something with wood, I refused to do it. And then my dad died and I inherited his cabinet-making shop. It stood idle for years until one day, out of curiosity, I visited the shop.
The smells of my childhood sprang instantly back to me as I opened the door. The building was dark and silent, the old sawdust rotting on the floor, the tools lined up in racks, rusting away, the machines sitting idle. As I strolled around the shop, I suddenly had the desire to make a wooden box.
Over the next few weeks, I made a really nice blanket box that I still have. But what was more, I found myself increasingly interested in making things at the shop.
At that time I had a girlfriend who liked to visit Mystic, Connecticut. On one trip, we bought a book of plans for boat and shipbuilding.
By then my carpentry skills and curiosity had grown enough that I was interested in how things were made and I paid particular attention to the boat joinery. I pulled out some lumber and formed the stem of a boat – just to see how the wood worked together. I had no intention of going further.
But the next time I went to the shop I cut out a keel… and attached it to the stem. And soon I was attaching ribs. I had never done anything like this before and many times I pulled out the chainsaw to cut it into firewood before someone saw the embarrassment. But I kept coming back to it.
Within a few months, to my amazement, there was a giant boat in my shop. I stepped a mast and put on all kinds of lines and a little pirate flag and then I towed it 150 miles to my house in Maine. I was absolutely certain it would go straight to the bottom when it was launched.
The boat slid off the trailer, banged into the ground and slid into the water. And then it started to float away while I stood on the shore in surprise. I couldn’t believe it. But now it was too far away to wade out to – I had to swim for it.
When I pulled myself aboard, I grabbed the oars and went for ride around the lake. I had made a sailboat – and it survived for more than ten years.” Jay Bazzinotti
7. Sometimes a happy little accident is just what you need!
“In the 70s, I foolishly quit teaching and invested my life savings (about $2,000, which was what you’d pay for a VW bug back then) to start a greeting card company.
When my first line of cards didn’t work, I came up with a line of business sized cards called Pocket Cards.
The cards’ sayings included, “Help me face my fears and I’ll help you face yours.” “Sometimes life scares me.” “Be happy!” “Hello!”
Since not knowing what I was doing was never a concern, I taught myself how to do the maintenance that the printer would need to make the plate to print the cards.
When an excess of rubber cement caused one card style to come apart, rather than postpone the printing, I substituted a card created as a joke. It had a fancy border and script that said, “You are cordially invited to go [expletive] yourself!”
Not expecting to print or sell the card, I left off the company name and copyright.
When I stacked my printed designs up, I noticed the stack of invitations was shorter than the others. I wasn’t sure why and didn’t care, since I only wanted a few for personal use. (It eventually occurred to me that the printers had liberated a few hundred cards.)
Anyway, I loaded my VW bug and set out to convince a baker’s dozen of Manhattan retailers to take the cards on consignment in an effort to test my latest brainchild.
As a last minute thought, I bagged, taped, and brought a couple dozen packs of the invitations and ended up placing them in one store, the last, because it was in New York’s Greenwich Village where naughty was the norm.
A week later, I revisited the stores in the order I’d left the displays. At the first store, not a single pack of cards had sold. Second store, no luck. By the time I left the twelfth retailer, I was crushed. Zero packs of cards had sold.
I’d quit a secure job, given up a pension, blown my savings, and didn’t have a clue about what I would do for a living.
When I reached the 13th store in the Village, I had to work up enough courage to get out of the car, enter the store, and do a count. I came close to listening to a voice whispering, “Why bother? You already know more than you need to know!”
I didn’t think I could handle any more disappointment.
Noticing the store was crowded, I decided to sneak to where the display was and do a quick count. Seconds after stepping into the store and, I heard the owner, Joanie, yell, “Hey you, It’s about time you came back! I need more ‘[expletive] you’ cards.” Then she added, “and don’t give me any more of that ‘be happy’ crap!”
She continued to explain that the cards had sold out the day I’d left them.
Within months I was grossing more money every week than my yearly teacher’s salary. It didn’t take long until there were days when we grossed more than I was earning in a year.
All because of a little courage and a random accident!” Charles Faraone
8. That’s true love in the making!
“Some years ago I was going to meet a young lady for a blind date. “I’ll meet you in the lobby at the ____ Hotel in ____.”
I didn’t know what she looked like (this was pre-social media) but, c’mon! How difficult could it be to find a female in a hotel lobby?
I arrived early and looked around. No one, male or female, was in the lobby. I took the opportunity to go into the nearby men’s room to freshen up.
When I emerged, I looked around quickly, and saw no one except this beautiful woman sitting on a low bench. I couldn’t believe that someone that good-looking would be single much less going on a blind date with me.
So, being the complete dummy that I was, I walked right past her to use the lobby phone. I called my date and left a message to saying, “I’m here, and you’re not. So I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” Then I started to head for my car.
I walked past the beautiful woman on the bench and smiled. She smiled back. I said, “Hi.” She returned the courtesy. I then continued to walk out of the hotel and leave.
As I reached the second door, I suddenly had a wild thought. Go back and ask if she’s waiting for someone.
I did. Of course, she was my blind date!
We’re now celebrating 27 years of a marriage and partnership that I am blessed to be a part of. It just goes to show, eh?” Bill Doerr