Monday, February 1, 2010

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect

Twenty plus years ago when I first came to my present job, I inherited a secretary. After a year or so she left to pursue some personal dreams and I was left to hire a replacement. I had interviewed a couple of candidates when a co-worker came to me and said she knew a woman who was recently divorced, had no skills, but really needed a job. Thiswoman indicated a desire to learn and I hired her. We have been together ever since.

My secretary is a born again Christian. A seriously religious lady with extremely conservative views. She does not approve of my queer relationship although she was come to know and like my family. I am sure the carpet is worn out next to her bed where she probably spends hours on her knees praying for my redemption.

She is also not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Over the years I learned to do most of the work myself because it was just easier than explaining it or always having to double check and correct things. But that is okay. She really needed the job and I don’t mind doing a little extra work to help someone in need. (my Christianity apparently being more important than being a bureaucrat)

For twenty years we have had a nice, cordial but professional-only relationship, respecting each others personal boundaries and limitations. And then on December 5th, while she was playing in the snow with her grandson, she fell and broke her ankle and foot. She is still out of work and will be until probably the end of March. She is not allowed to put any pressure at all on the foot so she is totally immobile and dependent on the help of others. She is very frustrated.

In these last two months, we have forged a new relationship. That will happen, I suppose, when you do someone’s laundry and have to help them to the bathroom. Things change. I borrowed a wheelchair and took her grocery shopping the other day. I pushed her, she pushed the cart. We were like little kids - popping wheelies and taking out displays with our lack of coordination. Laughing hysterically all the way. Did we ever laugh together before? I spent Christmas Eve with her and she shared with me all the crap her ex-husband had put her through. Stuff I never knew. So much pain. I held her hand while she cried. I shared with her the whole story of my church threatening and finally rejecting me. I thought she might side with the church but she was appalled at what they did. She held my hand. (Her Christianity apparently being more powerful than judgement) It was one of the best Christmas Eves I ever experienced.

For twenty years I always had this not-so-humble view that I was doing almost all the work in our department. I never realized how much she did until I really had to answer every phone call and handle every single request for information. I am absolutely buried by the things I never knew happened in the background. I will never not appreciate her again.

A butterfly flaps its wings and it causes a hurricane half a world away.

A woman breaks her foot and it causes the most unlikely, unexpected and wondrous of friendships.


Have butterflies created any good things in your life lately?


  1. Yes. I started a blog over two years ago and ended up meeting this beautiful woman who makes me cry happy tears on a regular basis. It's getting old but there are no better or more accurate words than You Inspire Me. <3

  2. That is *such* a beautiful and inspiring story! Thank you for sharing it--and good on both of you for being able to see past the surface stuff to appreciate the humanity underneath. I often wonder whether Christianity ever really makes people better--today you have given me renewed hope that it does.


  3. I'll agree with Greg ~ I have met some of the kindest, funniest, most compassionate people on line.

    Also, we laid off one member of our very small team about a year ago. I distributed her work among the rest of the staff and took the bulk of it myself. Who knew!?! There are so many little things that she did that never made it into her job description...

  4. greg - right back at you.

    Doxy - I am not convinced that institutional Christianity makes people better but I do believe that living the way Christ taught certainly does.

    e - I am now trying to be more mindful of "the little things" people do for me BEFORE I am without them. Because you sure do miss them when they're gone.

  5. In a world of 'us' against 'them' I have always known you to be a person who sees another's humanity before you see their differences. Your secretary has gained a good friend indeed.

  6. What a wonderful post - thank you so much for sharing it.

    I do know of butterflies who have stirred things around in my own life. I only hope I've done the same.

    It's fun to think about it, that is for sure!

  7. Thanks for tipping the scales back in favor of humanity.

    I needed that. :)