You are not autonomous. You are not a sovereign state moving through a life that is all your own. The idea that you are a singular, impermeable being is totally bogus.
The choices you make impact more than just you. Your beliefs, your religion, your practices and whether you care or not has nothing to do with it.
Call it karma, the ripple effect, cause and effect -- whatever. How it's labelled is irrelevant.
Actions, they all have consequences. Whether immediately apparent, minuscule or massive, whether you never find out what's tied to the way you choose to live your life -- each happening carries with it an echo that reverberates out into the world.
You don't need a study or a citation to prove it. You simply need to live your life and sincerely, whole-heartedly, pay some attention.
Thanks for the sweater
Last winter, at an outdoor market, a woman gave me a sweater. It was a cheap sweater, used and pilly, with two saggy buttons. I had picked it up from a pile of clothing and when I was about to put it down she told me to take it.
It was cold and I'd just travelled across the world with insufficient warmies for what felt like unseasonable temperatures. I tried again to put it down because really, it was a piece of crap.
I must have looked cold. She insisted. I took it.
I've worn that sweater a hundred times since. It's kept me warm in bed, on walks and kept me from buying another sweater, perhaps a nicer, newer one. It's been worn by friends and been a blanket for my yoga students. It's even cleaned up spilled tea.
That woman will probably never know the direct impact of her action. When she gave me the sweater, she didn't seem to have any expectations. I doubt she thought much about it at all. She simply did something nice and probably didn't weigh how it would benefit her or what the long-term ramifications of kindness are.
When you do something nice, something thoughtful and selfless, the world becomes a little brighter. When you make decisions for the betterment of another -- a friend, an animal, a stranger, that dude at work you can't stand -- you're doing a solid for all beings.
Whether you see it now, later or never, all of your actions have consequences -- some insignificant, some wondrous and some dire.
I read recently, "don't do nothing because you can't do everything." Life might be full of complexities and injustices but every moment is another opportunity to be compassionate, kind and thoughtful. The choices you make in your life reach beyond you. The little things, they do matter and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Everyday, you should -- we all should -- try harder to be better.