The butterfly effect refers to the theory that a minute action can cause large effects, as in the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas.
Well, recently a viral Reddit thread asked people for examples of the theory that have occurred in their own lives, and their responses will have you going, "Whoa."
1. "My mother wore heels to work and slipped on the carpeted steps one day, resulting in a broken high heel and a broken leg. Well, while she was at home recovering, she developed allergies that led to her needing penicillin. The penicillin she was prescribed interfered with her birth control...and now I have a brother 13 years younger than me."
2. "I had been looking for direction, and went out for Chinese food one day. In my fortune cookie was a fortune that said, 'To teach is to learn twice.' I thought hard about it, and it led me to apply for a job at a local school as an ESL instructor. Well, two years later, there was an earthquake in Taiwan which caused many English teachers to leave. The school I was working for asked if anyone was interested in replacing those teachers at its sister school — I signed up, got a promotion there, then a wife, dog, son, and daughter. All because I like Chinese food."
3. "I moved a potted plant on one side of an elevator about three inches forward so that it would be symmetrical with the other. Well, a guy ran by it into the elevator and broke his toe on it! His coworker drove him to the ER and they got into a car wreck on the way. He was in a coma for two weeks."
4. "My Jewish grandfather was a pharmacist in Romania, and back in the 40s that meant making medicine. The town he lived in was agrarian, and their cow herds had come down with an illness that was killing them. My grandfather whipped up something that cured them, and the townspeople were grateful to him. So grateful that when the Chief of Police heard that the Nazis were coming to town to take inventory of who lived there, he showed up at my grandfather's house with some train tickets for him and his wife. They escaped, and my father was born at the end of 1945."
5. "One day when I was little, I was singing a song with some made-up words, and my mom asked what it was. Well, since my name is Evelyn and I wanted to be snarky, I said it was 'Evelynese.' A year after that, I decided to make up a fake country for that language, and a few stories to go along with it. Well, 10 years later, this world has a very intricate map of ecosystems, five distinct cultural and ethnic groups so far, 20 families of nobility, 237 common families, a religion, a specific type of domesticated big cat, the bones of a conlang, and two epics in the works that I plan to get published. All because toddler me wanted to throw some snark at my mom."
6. "I had attempted suicide after leaving an abusive ex, and was admitted to a psychiatric care unit. There, I met a girl named Lucy whose mother was from Greece. We became good friends, planned to go to Greece together, and after we both left that unit, we even moved in together. We became more like sisters. Well, two months before our trip, I needed to go collect some books that arrived for us at our local bookstore, but I'd had a shitty day at work and was exhausted. Lucy volunteered to go instead, and as she left the store, a car jumped the curb, hitting and killing her instantly..."
7. "My teacher encouraged me to enter a poetry competition when I was 17 years old. I only entered because there was a cash prize, but I ended up winning and getting my poem published. Well, a couple of months later, I got a Facebook message from a girl who wanted to know more about my poem because she had to analyze it for her upcoming exam. It turned out that we were about the same age, so we decided to meet up and discuss it. We've been together for four years and are getting married next month. I often wonder what my life would look like if my teacher hadn't approached me back then."
8. "My grandpa's first wife cheated on him with his best friend, so he was pissed and wanted to get away. His aunt had recently moved to Australia, so he figured he would start his new life there. But since he already had two kids with his ex-wife, she was worried he wouldn't pay child support if he left the country, and she got his passport taken away under the premise that he was trying to flee his responsibilities. The day after he was supposed to have left, he went to get drunk at an old colleague's housewarming party, and that's where he met my grandma, who was there on a date with another man. They took one look at each other, and never looked back!"
9. "In high school, I didn't get into the AP History class I wanted, so I had to change my schedule and take a different gym class without anyone I knew. I was heartbroken because I really wanted to be a teacher, and without an AP class, I was screwed. Well, I made a new friend in gym class who was wearing a volunteer firefighter shirt. He had just joined and made it seem interesting, so I checked it out. They paid for me to get my EMT, and I fell in love with healthcare. Fast forward quite a while...and I'm an ER Nurse and loving it. Glad I missed out on that AP class."
10. "I was going out to grab pizza and a case of beer for me and my roommate when he texted me that he had a 'stomach thing.' So instead, I walked to a restaurant and ordered dinner at the bar. Well, I met a girl there, and now we're married with two kids...all because my roommate had diarrhea."
11. "My mom made me sign up for French in high school since I already spoke Spanish. I didn't really care about the language, but I became friends with a girl in that class. Later that year, she became sick with cancer, and she passed away the following year. Well, I had become close with her family, and they told me that French was her favorite subject and that it was her dream to study abroad. Her parents asked if we — her friends from French class — would do that on her behalf....
"I was the only one who worked towards it, and I finally spent a semester there during my third year of college. I had always enjoyed French, but it wasn't a passion until something shifted that semester. So I came home, finished my undergrad degree, got my masters in French, then moved back to France. It's been 11 years since my friend died, and three years since I've lived here, and the whole time it's been clear to me that she's been with me on this journey."
12. "My girlfriend and I were on a road trip on the West Coast, and we had planned to spend a night in Las Vegas, go to Zion the next day for some hiking, and then spend another night in Vegas. Well, when we woke up for our Zion trip, we discovered that our hotel's coffee machine had broken down, so we had to go to a nearby McDonald's to get some coffee to go. When we got there, however, they told us they had run out of milk, so we let our GPS direct us to another one around the corner. Well, we arrived to find that one was permanently closed..."
13. "One day in junior high I tried out for a play, but I didn’t get a part. But I saw on the bottom of the cast list that they were looking for a student director to help out with it. I wasn't particularly interested, but another girl saw it at the exact same time and she wanted it. Well, my dad raised me to be highly competitive, so I just wanted to beat her. So we both applied, and I got it. I ended up being a theater director for 15 years, and now I direct films."
14. "Had a surprising and rough breakup and decided to treat myself to a vacation somewhere I'd always wanted to go. Well, I loved it there more than I expected, and six months later, I emigrated there."
15. "My mother and her five siblings were deported to Auschwitz in May of 1944. Soon after their arrival, my mother was placed into a line of people assigned to 'take showers' after their long trip. My mother was 13 years old and very frightened, so she held her mother's hand. Well, a Nazi soldier happened to spot this, and he ordered my mother into a different line, thinking it would be funny to separate her from her mother and make her cry. My grandmother was gassed to death about 15 minutes later, but my mother had been put in the line for the work camp."
16. "One day in high school I was procrastinating on my homework by watching a foreign musical on YouTube. I ended up trying to learn the lyrics and eventually the language, Hungarian. Well, that led me to discover the field of linguistics, and now I'm majoring in it. I don't know what I'd be doing now had I actually started doing my homework that day instead."
17. "My uncle was in high school and wanted to bring his pregnant girlfriend to a church picnic to meet my family. My grandpa told him she wasn’t welcome there because he was angry at my uncle for getting her pregnant. Well, my uncle's girlfriend took off upset and was hit by a drunk driver while crossing the street, killing her and her unborn child. My uncle is 70 now, has never had another relationship after that, and is childless to this day."
18. "My pregnant cousin usually takes the 5:10 p.m. bus after work, and one day she was about to hop inside but really needed to pee. Since her commute is about an hour long, she decided to go to the restroom instead and catch the next bus. That 5:10 p.m. bus ended up falling from a cliff."
19. "I was just out of high school, jobless, new in town, and I had overdrafted like 10 times and now owed $300. So I went down to the bank and told the teller about my situation. Not only did she get all of the charges removed, she said she would help me get a job at the restaurant her son worked at. By the end of that week, I was working full-time and had made friends with a cool dude who worked there. I introduced him to my sister, they fell in love, got married, and had two kids..."
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.