Keeping it Real with Terri Netterville: The Butterfly Effect

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If we walked through life fully understanding the magnitude of our presence in the lives of every soul who happened along our path, would we live and love a little differently? Would we open our hearts, our minds and even our homes a little more readily?

Think for a moment. We’ve all been exposed to people in our world who fully understand the benefit of sharing their lives with others. It is because of their presence in our lives that we are blessed with a better understanding of who we are, who we want to be in this life, and how we hope to be remembered in this world.

These are the people who taught us, by example, that kindness matters, service to others matters and, ultimately, connecting with people is what matters most of all.  Social connection is a gift that will reach thousands upon thousands of people – each person’s influence can travel beyond our wildest comprehension. This phenomenon is known as the “butterfly effect.”

My favorite author, Andy Andrews, posed this question in his book, The Butterfly Effect:

“How far forward would we need to go in your life to show the difference your life makes?”

His answer to the question changed my life forever; it sparked something inside of me that grew into a flame that has never burned out. In fact, it only gets brighter as the years go by.

Andrews said, “There are generations yet unborn whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take today.

And tomorrow.

And the next day.

And the next.

Every single thing you do matters.

You have been created as one of a kind.  On the planet Earth, there has never been one like you…and there never will be again. Your spirit, your thoughts and feelings, your ability to reason and act all exist in no one else.  The rarities that make you special are no mere accident or quirk of fate.

You have been created in order that you might make a difference.  You have within you the power to change the world.

Know that your actions cannot be hoarded… saved for later… or used selectively.

By your hand, millions – billions – of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you this day. The very beating of your heart has meaning and purpose. Your actions have value far greater than silver or gold. Your life… and what you do with it today… MATTERS FOREVER.”

Wow.  Powerful feeling, isn’t it?

This concept was life changing for me.  Immediately, my brain shifted from selfish thought to selfless reflection. I considered what I could do in my own life to make a positive difference, while leaving a lasting impact in the lives of all whom I encounter.  This mattered to me; the idea of it meant everything to me.

If you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.

~ Mr. Fred Rogers

I realized that one of the simplest ways to open myself up to others was to literally OPEN the doors of my home to any and all who wanted to come over and be part of my family’s life…whether for just a few minutes or a few days.  If they were friends of my children or anyone else in my extended family, they weren’t only welcome here, they were treated with love, respect, care and acceptance.

This philosophy means I rarely shy away from hosting a gathering at my house. In fact, I love having people here.  It makes me happy and gives me a sense of great purpose. These gatherings can be small, large or anything in-between.

I don’t have the biggest or fanciest house, but I have enough indoor and outdoor space that I can make it work, no matter the occasion. I have also trained myself not to stress over the amount of time it will take me to prepare for a gathering. The memories made during these special times with friends and family is worth way more than the time it takes me to prepare for the celebration or even the clean up afterward.

With my two sisters right beside me, we have hosted fifteen 4th of July celebrations at my house, about the same number of New Year’s Eve family celebrations, two weddings, numerous birthday parties, slumber parties, graduation parties, end-of-the-season team parties, puppy parties, and even a few pre-parties to other parties!

There was only one year when I did not feel like hosting our annual 4th of July celebration. It was the first summer after my father died and I just didn’t have it in me to host it.  The thought of it burdened my soul until my sister, Kimberly, straightened me out.

Kimberly said, “Teri, listen to me…this is not about you.  This isn’t even about Dad.  It’s about our children. It’s about our family continuing on in the spirit of togetherness, love and fun. It is ultimately to remind our children that we don’t just stop because one of us is no longer here on earth…we continue on in love and laughter for each other and ESPECIALLY for those who are no longer with us.  We celebrate life! THEIR life! OUR life!  We do this because that is who we are. And THAT is what we do!

We stay connected.

Our children need this life lesson now more than ever.

So, T, we’re doing this; go put on your big girl panties because we’ve got a party to plan.”

That soft blow to my heart was just the right amount salve on my wounded soul.

It was the best and most worthwhile tongue lashing I had ever received.

It’s about being “connectors” in this world by simply opening up our hearts, our minds and yes, especially our homes. It’s about making sure each person who enters your home feels comfortable, accepted, and cared about while in your presence.

Make your place an open space of love and inclusion. And always remember that the very beating of your heart has meaning and purpose…and that, my friends, is how you keep it real.