I followed my young children, turning off lights as they left rooms. It concerned money, I thought, the electric bill, which my husband said saved only a few pennies. Then I concocted another reason— sparing electricity, which I didn’t understand. I didn’t know words like grid.
Today I turn off lights when I leave a room and cringe if I walk into the house and find all the lights bright, the house lit up. When I visit my grown daughter with her four children, I’ve noticed that she leaves lights on, even turns them on in empty rooms. I don’t follow the people who live with her and under her rules, and hit light switches.
So, my curiosity peaked last week when her daughter, 6-year-old Brooke pranced from room to room flicking off light after light. Methodical, skipping like Dorothy with Toto, she clicked her heels and snapped her fingers. Smiling, a proud first-grader whizzed through her mission. Wondering if this started an anti-mommy rebellion, I asked, “Brookie, what are you doing?”
She stopped her bouncy step, raised her eyebrows, stared at me as if I had just asked a weird question and stated, matter-of-factly, “I’m turning off lights.”
I said, “I see that. Why?”
She looked at me, her obviously dumb, weird grandmother, put her hands on her hips, cocked her sweet blonde head and, as if mumbling duuuh, answered, “for the animals.”
Maybe weird, I had to know. “How does turning off lights in this house at the end of this city street, far from farms, help animals?”
She rolled her eyes at my stupidity, circled her arms and bopped her ponytail as she explained, “Because lights make heat in the house and then the heat escapes out of the house and heats up the world and heat in the world is bad for animals.”
I shrugged, “hmmm,” as she nodded and pointed her finger in a “doncha know?” kind of way, then skipped off to finish her task.
I flashed to the butterfly effect, how one slight act ripples outward into a bigger change. Can a butterfly flapping its wings in Toledo cause a hurricane in Hawaii? That sounded woo-woo to me when I first heard it. Now physics embraces it. Now it appears in chaos theory.
Maybe it matters what we do, small acts like smiling at the post office clerk who, as a result smiles at the next customer who then smiles and hugs his restless child. Or getting a vaccine, one small act, which helps protect the grandkids you see, who then do not infect their teachers who do not then infect their partners. One small act with ever-expanding influence.
My pal Peter sent me an idea for such a ripple effect. He wanted help moving along federal policy to deal with climate change. He texted, “Please write and/or call our Senators in the next two weeks and get 1, 2, 5 or 10 more people to do the same to advocate for a bill which proposes putting a price on carbon since carbon emissions are the major driving force behind climate disruption. If Maine meets its state goal of 350 calls, and other states meet their goal, we will have sent 10,000 messages to Congress by mid-August. Here’s the link: cclusa.org/senate. Thank you!”
It matters that we walk from room to room in our private individual homes with the intention of helping the public, the collective, and yes, the grid and the animals. Small acts matter.