Monday, October 29, 2012

The Power of One

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

I received a notification in my e-mail for the following post by my blogger friend, Jenny Hansen, titled “Can One Person Make a Difference?”  I knew it would be something I needed wanted to read, so I saved it for a time when I could devote my undivided attention to it.  I’m so glad I did, because she reminded me that most of the time, change starts with just one person.

One of the motivations for writing this blog is the premise that we can make a difference in our own communities.  My evidence for this belief comes from the efforts of the over 100,000 volunteers who have traveled – in groups AND as individuals – to Joplin these past sixteen months to help us recover from the storm-that-shall-not-be-named.

But, I have to admit, sometimes I get discouraged.  Each time I read about yet another suicide blamed on bullying, I wonder, “Can we fix this?  Can we really change Society so kids won’t feel that their only option is death?”  Or, when I read about war, or acts of terrorism, I think, “Are we ever going to have a world where we all learn to just get along?”  And then other times I get excited about programs designed to help kids succeed in school, potentially ending the cycle of poverty, only to find adults who discourage the use of such programs and discredit their benefits – or, worse, I allow myself to fall into the trap of thinking that no matter how hard we try some kids are just going to drop out anyway.  Really, what is the point if nothing is ever going to change?

Sometimes, it just seems too much for just one person to handle.

But then I think about people – individuals – who have made an impact on the world through their lives.  I think about Mother Teresa, whose  religious order, Missionaries of Charity, began in 1950 with thirteen members and now boasts 4,500 sisters actively serving the “poorest of the poor” in 133 countries.  And then there is Ghandi.  One man was able to unite Hindus and Muslims in non-violent protests of Britain’s rule over India.  His leadership helped India achieve independence from 89 years of British rule.  More recently, there is Blake Mycoskie, whose company, TOMS, has donated over two million pairs of shoes to children in need since it was founded in 2006, and now works to help end disease-related blindness by the year 2020.  And my friend, Meg Bourne, founder of ArtFeeds, an organization that strives to provide art therapy to kids and has thus far served over eleven thousand children both here in Joplin and in Ghana.  And finally there is Lady Gaga and her Born This Way Foundation, which works with communities and organizations to help put an end to bullying by empowering young people to change the world to be kinder and safer for everyone.

As I think about these remarkable people, I realize that the list of individuals who are doing SOMETHING to improve the world around them is endless.  All around us are people working to help their neighbors.  Some do it quietly, maybe by making sure an elderly person who lives alone has food to eat, or by working at a donation station once a month.  And others who have the privilege of notoriety use this gift as an avenue to raise awareness and mobilize others on a much larger scale.  Others, like Anna Pavlova, the ballerina Jenny spoke about in her blog post, use their talents to bring beauty and change to the world.

Can ONE person change the world?  Yes, and the most amazing - and humbling - thing is, change almost always begins with just ONE person.

So, go.  “Go be the change you wish to see.”


  1. YES. I so stand with you on this one, Dawn. (And look - suddenly we're two, instead of one!)

    I'm very late this party, but just started reading Cheryl Strayed's "Tiny Beautiful Things." Dear god. Talk about one person committing so whole-heartedly and authentically to the needs presented to her! I cry every time I open it.

    Discouragement and fatigue are real, but from where I sit, Dawn, you've been one of those people making a difference. Bringing us together, spreading hope, improving commmunity... That counts big-time, friend.

  2. Tele, I have not heard of Cheryl's book - I will have to go check it out. You have done so much to help others and to help promote the healing power of art so for you to compliment me in such a way, really, it means so much to me. Thank you for stopping by today. :-)