I believe that one person really can make a difference. All too often we hear reference to the fact that I am just one person, I can’t change the world. I am learning that we really do all individually and collectively make a difference. Just like the rock that is skipped across the still water that sends ripples as it disappears into the bottom of the lake; we too send ripples across not only our lives but the lives all around us. Just imagine what the lake would look like if 3 or 4 were skipping rocks at the same time, now imagine how dramatically the face of it would change if a hundred all did the same. The ripple effect becomes exponential, not only do we have an impact on those around us but also on the spheres of influences that those around us have.
One can look back at history and see many examples of individuals who made a huge impact on the world. Billy Graham, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln just to name a few. We see their influence on the world and attribute it to some special gift that they had. While circumstances may have impacted their influence they each chose to use the situations they were given to make a difference for others. I am not sure that they were really anything “special” more that the outcome was based on the decisions that they made.
We are all nobody special and yet we all are special in that each and everyone regardless of status, upbringing, mistakes of the past, and even natural ability can and do make a difference. Recently I received notice that my son was going to receive the Presidential Unit Citation. This award is given for “extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign.” How does a young man from Keizer, Oregon; raised by a single mom; not associated with anyone of high stature; just a regular every day kid become such a hero? I would like to take credit that I was such a wonderful mom who had all the right answers and did all the right things but that’s really not true (except the wonderful mom thing, well okay truthfully, I just did the best that I knew how with lots of mistakes and tons of God’s grace). What really shaped this young man was a result of the seeds that were planted by all those who crossed his path, yes even the bad seed.
Kind of an interesting thought how does bad seed turn into good fruit? While the seed that was sown may not have necessarily been meant for good; our attitude, decisions and choices that we make can stall us, turn us bitter, or even develop into a full blown pity party. (Oh yes I have often had coffee with pity, sometimes even a full scale lunch, it was a lonely gathering that only I enjoyed, unfortunately for those around me it often had a rancid odor, in other words while I might have enjoyed the pity party it stunk for those around me.) Or we can use the seed to turn a different direction, reevaluate our purpose and mission, or in my sons’ case set out to prove that they were wrong. Whatever the motivation it still boils down to decisions and choices and in many cases those decisions and choices must be made over and over again. The problem with much of life is it is so daily. Daily decisions (often the same ones being made over and over again), daily habits, daily choices that often don’t really seem to make a difference. Maybe it’s just that we don’t see the difference that they make. Consider eating a 3 inch chocolate chip cookie. Will it make a difference if I have one today? Probably not, but if I make a decision to have a cookie today, and then tomorrow, and the next and so on that simple cookie that adds 120 calories a day, adds 3600 calories in a month or 43,200 calories in a year. There is power in exponential growth. Influence works the exact same way; if we each only made a difference in a person’s life exponential growth will automatically kick in. But even more what if we each made a difference each and every day whether it be simply holding the door open, buying a meal or a bag of groceries for someone who is hungry, a kind word, or even simpler sharing a smile with everyone we walk or drive by. By looking at things this way changing the world seems more of a possibility, maybe even a reality.
One may never know the impact that they have on others. I have been extremely blessed to see the impact of one’s life that really just loved and accepted others where they were. I have had so many come up to me and tell me how much they knew that Ryan loved them. He didn’t just say it, he showed it. It has impacted me to emulate my son and make a difference in others and I do believe that I can inspire others to do the same. It is best summed up by John F Kennedy “One person can make a difference and every person should try.”