California is beautiful. Amazingly, stunningly, unequivocally beautiful. It’s no secret why so many people want to live there and every time I go back, I am stricken and inspired by its many gifts. I grew up in Southern California and have lived as far south as Carlsbad and as far north as the San Francisco Bay Area. Each region has its treasures and I still love them and miss them. This past week, my husband, son and I went there for vacation and we were lucky enough to splash in the ocean and take in the wonder of the giant sequoia trees, all in the same day. Each is a majestic celebration of earth and water, endless time, and the infinitesimally small part we play in this universe.
Sadly, California is in the midst of a severe drought and during our time we were reminded of this on many occasions. We took care during our mountain stay to shower quickly, spare dishes where we could, and treat water as the limited resource that it is. In more populated places, restaurants serve water only upon request and locals restrict their usage regularly. While the immensity of the mountains and the sea caused my thoughts to go in one direction, the importance of each tiny act led me in another.
This dichotomy of simultaneously being such a small component of the universe and yet having the ability to greatly impact a situation is an interesting place to be. If we only examine our actions on an individual basis and fail to see them as a part of the greater whole, we miss the opportunity to bring good to the world, to inspire change, or perhaps to experience greatness.
It got me thinking about a few small things that can make a big difference in the lives of others…
Smile more. This simplest of acts brings joy to the people around us. If we could each share a smile with a friend, a neighbor, and more importantly perhaps, a stranger, the lives of both people would be improved. Did you know that smiling reduces stress, boosts your immune system, is contagious, and is a universal sign of happiness? So smile away. A lot and without hesitation.
Forgive a little. I think that too often we get wrapped up in being angry or offended by someone else’s actions and, maybe, if we gave the benefit of the doubt on more occasions, we’d all be better off. I realize that there are true wrongs that need to be righted, but I also believe that harboring too much negativity can really take a toll. We can all be thoughtless or careless at times, but I truly believe that most of the time it isn’t intentional. People are busy, stressed out, overwhelmed, tired. Most of the time, we’re all just doing the best we can and if we could be a little more lenient at times, a little more forgiving, we might find our lives fill with more peace and more love.
Accept the differences. Sometimes I look around and wonder why people do the things they do or behave in a certain way. And then I catch myself. If we all did things the same way, life would not only be boring, but we would miss these moments of growth and learning, we could not treasure the unique. Differences are an opportunity to embrace, a chance to experience something from another perspective and subsequently get more out of this life. There is profound richness in the differences.
There is a concept in chaos theory called the butterfly effect, which is something I have always found beautiful and magical. Something seemingly insignificant – like the breath of wind generated by the wings of a butterfly – can change and magnify and eventually generate enough force to become a hurricane. A similar concept, the ripple effect, looks at how the smallest pebble when tossed into a pond can change circumstances and result in something completely unpredictable. The mystery – and greatness – of our smallest actions can have incredibly profound effects.
Therefore I smile. And forgive. And accept.