Guest Blog: The butterfly effect and how it works in our daily practices

Last week, we shared a guest blog from Maurice Smith with his personal reflections on the recent string of officer involved shootings of homeless and mentally ill folks in Spokane. The following blog is a reflective response to Maurice’s blog from Leona Flowers at the Family Impact Network:

The butterfly effect and how it works in our daily practices.

Sometimes, a person can say the smallest thing and it totally alters another person’s life; hopefully for the good but sometimes for the not so good. It is important to be aware of what we say to people, and how we say it, at all times. If a person is in a bad spot and you are flippant with them, it might make it harder for them to see their own situation clearly. It could cause them to become even more agitated and lash out at someone else who doesn’t deserve it, or to distrust you and no longer want to work with you. Other times you can say just the thing that someone needed to hear, and they make significant changes in their lives for the better. 

I remember several years ago, I was working with a family experiencing constant domestic violence. Sadly, the woman was hospitalized from a beating she received from her husband. She almost died, but she pulled through, thank god. She had two small children with this man who also witnessed the beatings. Several weeks later, she and I were chatting about how she could keep herself safe when this happened again, because it would happen again. I told her that I was there to help her make a safety plan and would do what I could to see that she never had to experience abuse ever again. I also told her that I wanted her to become strong so that no one would ever put her in a box again because she deserved better than that. Over the next few weeks I saw her take control of her and her children’s lives. She was getting stronger and stronger each day. She left her abusive husband, filed for divorce and full custody of her children. She got a job and started to earn her own money, started attending women’s support groups and eventually applied to go back to college. We were sitting outside the courtroom for our final court hearing to dismiss her dependency case and grant her full custody of the children when I asked her, what changed?

She said when I told her to never allow herself to be put in a box ever again, it hit home. She said it gave her the courage to do what she needed to do. She was not raised in an environment where abusive behavior would have been tolerated and she and her children deserved better. She also said, the last thing I want is for my children to think it is okay for people to treat you that way. I remembered when I told her that, but I didn’t realize at the time how much of an impact it had on her life. Maybe she would have figured this out on her own or maybe she wouldn’t have. 

Her changes affected her children and hopefully those changes taught them to not allow themselves to be in a similar situation.   

Leona is a Resource Specialist at Family Impact Network, a subsidiary of Empire Health Foundation, currently supporting efforts to transition vulnerable children and families from crisis to resilience.