The Butterfly Effect: Andy Andrews

Has anyone read The Butterfly Effect?” my therapist asked at our grief support group meeting several weeks ago. I thought about the movie and wondered if the book was similar. The therapist anticipated our thoughts would be along those lines and explained the only similarity was the title. I rapidly bought the book on Ebay after the therapist explained the subject matter. Being in the midst of grief over the loss of my mom has made me keenly aware of how insignificant life can seem.

Both Andy Andrews’ The Butterfly Effect and the movie of the same name send the consumer of information on a fascinating ride. The movie is science fiction and made for drama but the book truly is something else entirely-it draws on real life experience we all face as mortal humans.

Every human being who has ever lived (with the possible exception of Christ) has asked the question, “does my life matter?” Andrews’ The Butterfly Effect is a small book but effective in answering that question. One hundred and nine pages and one hour after reading this book, I became convinced my life does matter. As human beings we are each intertwined and our actions may affect something we never know about.

Andrews’ uses several examples to prove his point with the most notable involving George Washington Carver. The story begins with a 2004 ABC News’ Person of the Week. The man’s name was Norman Borlaug who created a hybrid corn that could survive in harsh environments. Borlaug’s creation is estimated to have saved more than two billion lives.

Borlaug was taught by Henry Wallace who was the vice president of the United States under Franklin Roosevelt. When Wallace was vice president, he created a station in Mexico with the purpose to create the hybrid corn Norman Borlaug invented. George Washington Carver helped instill in a young Wallace a love for plants that Wallace showed in building the station to create the hybrid corn. The Butterfly Effect continues with the story of how young George Washington Carver was saved from slavery in infancy by a man named Moses who knew slavery was wrong and acted on his beliefs. Moses and his wife committed to giving George Washington Carver the education he helped pass on to Henry Wallace who created a station for the purpose of developing a hybrid corn that came true because of Norman Borlaug’s creation.

As I read The Butterfly Effect and realized Moses could have never known where his actions would lead, I saw similarities in my own life. If Rachel Cowden had not had the same genetic condition I had and experienced death from breast cancer in her 30’s, the syndrome my children and I have may not have had a name by the time of our diagnosis. Had a pathologist not taken a few extra minutes to write “she could have Cowden Syndrome” I would not have opted for genetic testing and a preventative mastectomy that showed ductal carcinoma (the cancer type that took Rachel’s life). If these small events those two people knew nothing about had not happened, I would not be writing these words. Because of these two events, I am an almost four year breast cancer survivor.

Even when we do not see it, our lives and actions have an impact. Andy Andrews’ The Butterfly Effect better revealed this to me. The former me often dreamed of being in a time machine and going back to change situations for the better. The Butterfly Effect and now my own life make me not as sure I would want to change anything.

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