The Butterfly Effect
It’s only a theory and most serious students of science discount it.
But if someone can give a better explanation of how a hurricane begins, I’d like to hear it.
The theory called The Butterfly Effect states that the first counterclockwise wind that begins the process of becoming a continent-shattering storm such as Katrina begins with something as small as the air moved by the flapping of a butterfly’s wings.
It is hard to imagine something so simple and small developing into something so complex and large. The idea of the faint immeasurable breeze from a butterfly flapping off the west coast of Africa leading to the havoc and destruction of 165 MPH winds is nearly laughable.
But something has to start it.
And the start of anything is usually small,
And often unnoticed.
Maybe a hurricane does start with something so small.
For the past two weeks I’ve been watching another form of “The Butterfly Effect” taking place. It’s happened in the camp where I work and at the evacuee shelter we call “The City of Hope.” All over our parish and area, a steady stream of cars and trucks have driven in loaded with supplies.
Country people of modest means and fixed incomes have pulled out their billfolds and quietly placed stacks of $100 bills in my hand with the whispered request, “Use it to help these folks who’ve lost everything.” These givers are people I’ve known all of my life—neighbors for whom I know a gift this large will mean sacrifice and doing without in some area of the coming month. But our job as “God’s middlemen” at the camp is to accept these heart-given gifts in a spirit of joy and gratitude and seek to use them wisely to help these new friends who are displaced from their homes.
The multiple beating of these butterfly wings of giving have combined to create a strong hurricane force wind of good deeds. People who want to give, go, and help—
Just like the wind off the coast of Africa, these small deeds have ended up touching an area we call New Orleans. Yet it affected much more than just the central city of New Orleans. Whether it was the Westbank, St. Bernard, Slidell, or the bayou Lafourche area, lives and homes were flooded and ripped apart, as Katrina came barreling from the ocean, destroying all in its path.
This subsequent “storm of good works” taking place all over our nation cannot be found on any Doppler radar screen or on The Weather Channel, but it is just as real as any storm of nature. As I write this a month after Katrina, evacuees are in every one of the fifty states. I smile as I think of a St. Bernard fisherman in Alaska or a clerk in Utah trying to understand the rich brogue of an Irish Channel resident.
Yes, this good works storm is steadily, day-by-day, spreading all over our nation. And just as steadily it is moving back toward the New Orleans area.
The Old New Orleans pre-Katrina will never exist again. Much of it was destroyed by the storm. It will never be the same again.
Much of it will be rebuilt due to this “good works storm.” We are seeing great heroes.
Most of these heroes are the quiet sort. You won’t see them on the evening news screaming into a TV camera. They are just solid blue-collar working folks who’ve toiled hard all of their lives.
They’ve overcome hardships… poverty, lack of education, prejudice, barriers of language, race, culture, and color. With God’s help they will overcome this hurdle.
One of the New Orleans evacuees came up to me and commented, “What this camp has done for us is beyond words. You’ve opened your heart as well as your doors.” He continued with a troubled self-indictment, “If the roles were reversed, I don’t think our city would have opened its arms to you in the same way.”
But I want to disagree with his statement. Pre-Katrina he was probably right. But the new New Orleans will be different. It will be greatly populated by those who know how it is to lose everything. They will be able to empathize with others who’ve suffered great loss.
Last Friday I sat in a meeting with the leaders of our evacuees. We jokingly call this group “The Dry Creek Town Council.” I asked each group leader to bring us up to date on their plans for the days ahead. Some shared plans to move to a new location for a fresh start. Most expressed confusion as they continued to seek what God wants for their family or church.
David Rodriquez, pastor of the Horeb Hispanic Baptist Mission spoke quietly but confidently, “We feel that we should go back home and help re-build New Orleans.” There was an emotional feeling in the room that I cannot describe on paper. Eyes were full of tears as heads nodded and affirming comments were made.
I could see this 150-member congregation, made up of both lifetime Americans and new Americans from Honduras, staking a claim on the Westbank area and spreading out all over greater New Orleans—these good people who’ve become my family in the last month; these hard workers who ask for nothing more than opportunity.
All of a sudden I feel real excited about the “New New Orleans.” Can 150 people change a city for good? Well, if a butterfly’s wings can create a hurricane, I guess nothing small is impossible.
Especially, nothing is impossible when God is behind it.