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Butterfly Wings of Good Will

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but there’s a theory that the minuscule gust of wind created by the flapping of a single butterfly’s wings can start a series of events that culminates in a monsoon halfway across the planet. A corollary maxim states: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

But the best embodiment of this notion I can think of is in the classic comedy What About Bob? — in which Bob, a hyper-phobic neurotic played by Bill Murray, manages to navigate his anxiety-filled world by following the advice of his psychiatrist (Richard Dreyfus) to take “baby steps.” Instead of panicking over the enormity of the world and its problems, Bob learns to tackle life moment by moment. “Baby steps down the hall!” Bob repeats to himself. And upon reaching the end of the hall: “Baby steps onto the elevator.” And so on, until Bob truly comes to live in the moment. He carpes his diem, truly.

The “moral” of such parables is plain: Small actions can create epic results.

Those of you have volunteered your time to a local charitable project — heck, even those of you haven’t yet — would be wise to take a short-term view. Instead of becoming paralyzed at the enormity and complexity of our community problems — poverty, educational opportunity, health care — consider what you can do today, right here, right now.

A perfect example: the team at LatinWorks. LatinWorks is one of Austin’s largest advertising agencies, known worldwide for their innovation and true creativity. When the LatinWorks staff learned that United Way Capital Area was accepting school supplies for local kids, they saw an opportunity to … well, flap their butterfly wings.

So over the course of a couple of weeks, the staff gathered stacks of pencils, paper, notebooks, crayons, glue, rulers, and backpacks. Their goal was modest: Gather enough stuff to fill 40 backpacks. By the end of the supply drive, they had MORE than enough. They presented United Way with boxes of backpacks, filled and ready to go as school started this week.

Let’s translate their philanthropy into real terms, shall we?

Now, about four dozen kids from low-income families will show up at school with everything they need to get engaged and start learning. Instead of being unprepared (and potentially embarrassed) at a lack of “stuff,” the kids have one less thing to impede their school success. Their parents, in turn, now have one less expense to pay for (or, even worse, not be able to pay for). That means a slightly happier home, slightly more effective students, and slightly less stressed parents.

That’s success. That’s the monsoon of good will created by a simple, inexpensive, and ultimately profound gesture. We applaud LatinWorks, and we applaud the countless others who take life moment by moment, and ask themselves what they can do to make Central Texas a better place to live — for everyone.

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