The Butterfly Effect

|Author: Evan P.|

While driving home from SELCO yesterday, I was gazing out the window hoping to glance upon something inspirational, something to write about in my final blog. This blog couldn’t be just any old blog, it had to be something more.

After looking for a while and noticing a lot of what we are now accustomed to, tuk tuks, big trees lining the road, motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic, the Hindi music our Uber driver was blasting on the radio, I finally saw something that caught my attention.

We were driving down a long section of road next to a hospital compound, next to the road was a large concrete wall, something that is incredibly normal in India, and between the road and the wall was a sidewalk, a decent one by Indian standards. As we drove by this wall I noticed a motorcycle parked on the road up in front of us. The rider was wearing a lime green helmet and was standing next to a man. A moment later the rider turned and holding hands with the other man started walking down the sidewalk towards us. Why was he stopped? What was he doing? Why are they holding hands? As we got closer I noticed a long straight cane in the other man’s hand and realized that he was blind. This biker had stopped his bike on the side of the busy road to help a blind man make his way down the sidewalk. WOW.

I don’t want to make any assumptions about this brief event that I witnessed, it is possible that I saw something completely different then what was happening but being the optimist that I am (sorry Lester) I would like to believe that what I think I saw was true. The sidewalk near where they were had telephone poles protruding from the middle of the sidewalk. This made me think of all the sidewalks I’ve seen in India, all the times that I’ve stepped on an unbalanced section that rocked to the side, and all the times I’ve had to leap over gaping holes exposing the open sewage beneath them. I’ve never before thought about what it must be like for a blind person to walk down the sidewalk in India. I can’t imagine how hard it must be.

This small act of kindness, as simple as someone taking 1 minute out of their daily commute to help someone who is having a hard time, is so impactful. I imagine that the biker saw the blind man struggling to make it through the maze of telephone poles protruding from the sidewalk, or saw the man trying to walk down the road as cars were whizzing by to avoid the treacherous sidewalk. I imagine this biker feeling empathy for the blind man, stopping his bike, and helping him walk down the remaining 100 yards of sidewalk, guiding his steps past the holes and the telephone poles, until he reached a safer road with a better walking path clear of obstacles. Unfortunately, I will never know what really happened. I soon lost sight of them as our Uber continued back to ISI, leaving me wondering about this peculiar event.

No matter the backstory or hidden truth behind the event I witnessed, what matters is the impact that it left on me. A small act of kindness can do so much, even if the blind man didn’t appreciate the bikers help, the site of this made my day, and gave me inspiration about what to write my final blog post about.

It is small acts of kindness like this that have made this journey to India so memorable. There have been so many that I can’t name them all, and it saddens me that I can’t even think of most of them. However, here are a few notable examples:

· The huge smiles that Xavier and Moses, the two Chefs at ISI have on their faces every time I see them

· Cole Hoover’s abundant support and willingness to help us with whatever we need

· The encouragement that we get daily from all the instructors from both UW and ILK

· The fact that Henk didn’t appear mad at me after throwing up on him during our bus ride to Mysore, and never mentioned it again

· SELCO employees continuously making us feel at home and like we are a part of their team even though we only work for roughly 18 hours a week.

· People in slums offering us orange soda and cookies when we visit their homes, even when not expected

Now I haven’t mentioned all the kindness from my fellow classmates, or the friends we have made while being here, simply because we all have a lot of work to do and no one wants to be listening to blogs for any longer.

Over the past few weeks I think that all of us have had thoughts about the amount of impact that we can make. In 5 days when we all say our goodbyes and head our separate ways, are we going to leave behind anything tangible? Will we have made any impact? What if our NGOs don’t end up hiring anyone to do this job, do the last 7 weeks of work that we put in go to waste?

These are questions that I’ve had over the past few weeks, and I don’t think that I’m alone. Most of these answers I don’t know, but the one thing that I do know is that over the past 10 weeks India has had a huge impact on me. This impact doesn’t only come from what we’ve seen, heard, experienced, and learned, but also comes from all the little acts of kindness that I have experienced every day.

When finishing up our projects this week, think about the impact that a small act of kindness can have. If such small actions can make such large impacts, then 10 weeks of work, countless sleepless nights, and a whole lot of human centered design surely can.

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