The U.S. standard railroad gauge, which is the distance between the rails, is four foot eight-and-one-half inches. Why such an odd number? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and engineers who had been educated under that English system built American railroads. So why did the English use that measurement? Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways, all used that specific gauge.
They used the four foot eight-and-one-half inch distance between their wheels because the people who built the tramways used the same standards, pattern forms and tools they had used for building wagons. And yes, the wagon axels, and wheels in Europe, were all set on a standard gauge of four foot eight-and-one-half inches. They had been that way for as long as anyone could remember, and that exact gauge had been taught and passed down from one generation to the next for centuries.
The obvious question now is, “Why were wagons built to that specific scale?”, and the answer is amazingly simple. Europeans knew that any other size would not match the old wheel ruts in the roads they traveled on. That in turn would cause damage, a rough ride and very slow, very uncomfortable travel from one place to another. The growth and development of Europe would have slowed down considerably had they used any other wheelbase. The results of changing this standard gauge would have literally changed the entire history of modern civilization.
So who built these old rutted roads that were made of stone blocks, and have stood the test of time? The Rome Empire built the first long-distance highways in Europe. They were engineered for the benefit of their legions as they conquered the known world. The ruts were made by a thousand years of Roman war chariots rumbling over them. Four feet, eight-and-one-half inches was the exact width a chariot needed to be in order to accommodate two horses running side-by-side.
Think of it, a measurement made by some unknown chariot maker, 2500 years ago, accommodated two Roman warhorses and changed the course of the world. Because of this simple act, every living person on the face of the earth, and every nation on the planet, is still under the influence of the Roman Empire. Even though it vanished off the face of the earth more than 1500 years ago, we still feel the effect. I wonder if it ever crossed the mind of that chariot maker that one decision he made would somehow ripple across time and literally change the entire world?
Like it or not, we are all interconnected in more ways than we can imagine. Time and distance really do not separate us all that much. As we go our way each day, the decisions we make which seem harmless enough, can have far-reaching implications. A self-serving unkind word, a text while driving, an impatient attitude with a store clerk can be devastating at many levels. An outburst that needlessly criticizes another, drinking and driving, or a moment of arrogant disrespect can be multiplied down through time and literally change our world and everyone in it.
We do these things on a daily basis and think nothing of how they might be magnified. The ripple of anger you start may become a tsunami of rage that devastates the shore of many lives. That in turn changes them and impacts everyone they meet, which then rolls on through countless others. Consider this; in 1905 a young boy in Europe named Adolf is slapped across the face and continually humiliated and abused by his drunken father. He grows up, joins the army with this hatred seething in his heart and then Adolf Hitler finds his place in world history. He becomes a world changer all because of the actions of another!
Perhaps it’s time for us to stop and think about how our actions do make a huge difference. It’s easy to be kind, when we could have been angry, or to show mercy, when judgment was in our heart. It’s better to speak the truth than lie and not take responsibility. When you take the time to measure things out correctly, and do what is right, it’s a world-changer. Until we get hold of this reality, we will continue acting as if we can do what we want and it makes no difference.
We are all like that unknown chariot maker. A simple, insignificant act today will have a ripple effect tomorrow, far beyond anything we can imagine. Like it or not, we are all interconnected in this magnificent dance of life. How we dance today will determine who is dancing, and what the music will be tomorrow. If you want the future to turn out for the best then dance well today, and tomorrow is sure to take care of itself!