Do you know how many cubic feet of snow fall onto our planet each year? Approximately 1,000,000,000,000,000. The phrasing of that number sounds silly, almost made-up, but that’s literally a million billion cubic feet of snow, weighing in at approximately one million billion kilograms. Altogether that’s enough force to squeeze a rainbow out of a pack of Skittles. Individually, however, we let kids run outside and try to catch snowflakes on their tongues, because we know that a single snowflake does not weigh a million billion kilograms. For anyone still using the imperial system of measurement (like me), a kilogram and bottle of wine weight about the same.

A single snowflake lacks the mass to be a crushing force worth any consideration. As they begin to stack up, however, piles turn into hills. Hills turn into mountains. Mountains of snow can become deadly avalanches…but which snowflake is to blame for that horrendous disaster which indiscriminately extinguishes life and destroys homes? As the late Polish poet StanisÅ‚aw Jerzy Lec pointed out, no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

We feeble humans often find ourselves caught in the same dilemma, which I call the snowflake mentality. If snowflakes could talk and you asked them who caused the avalanche, you would logically conclude that no snowflake could have possibly caused the avalanche because of how small and insignificant any particular spec of snow is. Yet, the seeing the avalanche happen first-hand tells us that at least one of those dastardly snowflakes has to be lying, right? Wrong. They’re not purposefully lying to you; they lack the perspective to understand their personal roles in the avalanche. Collective responsibility is difficult to control but simple to shirk. Your one vote couldn’t possibly affect an election consisting of hundreds of millions of voters. Tossing that one aluminum can out the window won’t do any real damage because the planet is massive by comparison. Keeping the one dollar in your pocket will make more of a difference than donating it because it’s just a single dollar and a billion-dollar disease.

Any recovering addict or child with a copy of a Doctor Suess book can tell you there’s no such thing as “just one.” Individual donations come together to cure diseases and save lives. Littered garbage builds up, gathers, and destroys ecosystems before we have time to notice. Votes add up and have the power to change the face of the planet and the history of our species. Snowflakes add up and create breathtaking landscapes with disastrous dangers.

The fact is plain and simple: you’re a snowflake, sweetheart. The question is whether you’ll live with the mentality of a snowflake or the mentality of something bigger.

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