A few years back, during a visit to Austin, Texas, I spied a historical marker on the side of downtown building.  I walked over to it and read these words:  “On this site in 1897 nothing happened.”  I smiled and went on my way, but it caused me to think.  I suspect that indeed something important did happen on that site.

It’s just that whatever those daily events were that took place on that site on a particular day were not immediately evident to historians.  But you can rest assured that something happened on that site on that day that ultimately did make a difference to someone.  The same is true of so many of our day-to-day experiences that fly by without our noticing.

Stop and think about some chance encounter or seemingly insignificant moment that ended up having a greater impact on your life.  How might it have been different if you had made one small different decision earlier that day?  A few years ago my family and I were involved in an auto accident that we would have completely avoided if we had been one mile further up the road or one mile back.  Just a few more seconds at the gas station at the beginning of our trip, a slowdown for a truck, a speeding up to pass someone all would have put us in a different place in the road, and we would not have been involved in that accident.

However, there’s no way to know what else might have happened if we had been further down the road or further back.  Maybe nothing, maybe something worse.  A friend once told me, “Where you are at this moment is a function of every every moment that’s gone before.  If anything had been different, you wouldn’t be right here right now.  It’s the old “Back to the Future” phenomenon.  Chaos theory suggests the principle of the “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.”  Change one initial condition in a process, and the whole outcome is different.

Some small decisions, or at least decisions that seem small at the time, can have life-altering ramifications.  I almost attended a different college because they offered me a $50 scholarship because of my high school grades.  I’m not sure what that said about my high school grades.  For $50, my whole life would now be different.  I would have met a different set of friends, I would have had different girlfriends, I would likely have married one of them.  Given how I chose my major and the people who influenced me, I would likely have chosen a different major and ultimately a different job to start my first career.  A decision that would have set in motion an entirely different trajectory for my life was almost made for $50.  Of course, $50 wasn’t that puny then, but it would have changed everything!

Landmark spots and landmark decisions are usually not seen as significant until we look back.  Only then do we recognize that what seemed a small moment, an insignificant decision, a chance encounter became a life-changer.  And those life-changers happen every day.