Well before I was born, John F. Kennedy said a timeless phrase that is as simple as it is powerful: “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”
When you think of names like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Edison, and Napoleon Hill, the idea that one person can impact so many lives certainly starts to make sense.
But do you believe YOU can make a difference? For most people, the answer is no.
We sometimes feel like the most insignificant thread in the tapestry of life, and see these people as extraordinary, isolated cases. A false sense of humility prevents us from seeing that, as children of God, everyone on this earth has been equipped with the potential for greatness.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ~ Edward Everett Hale
Through the opposition and ironies of life, it is true: one person can make a difference. Any person. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or what stage you’re in. Everyone can help someone.
During my most recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I met a group of 3rd graders at a school built and maintained by World Vision in the rural town of Enriquillo, that have set out to make an impact in their community by spreading awareness to prevent and eradicate violence against children. These little ones, who happen to be adorable and about my size, are passionate about their endeavor and firm in the belief that their efforts will touch lives in a positive way.
Led by a former sponsored child turned teacher, the anti-violence workshop helps children who are victims of bullying or abuse talk through problems, express themselves, and identify when to seek help, and to behave in a respectful and caring way to one another. In collaboration with UNICEF and the local Catholic Church, World Vision provides training to the teachers, supplies, and t-shirts for students.
The kids performed a skit that moved me to tears because it hit home. It isn’t a thing of the past or of my childhood: many children are still abused at home and they carry these behaviors to school by hitting their friends, playing violently, and being undisciplined in the classroom. But they can teach them about respect, peace, and love.
These sweet kids have a strong conviction that they can make a difference… and they try.
I’m usually not a big fan of this verb, because TRY can trick us right into self-sabotage. However, when it comes to impacting someone, it’s actually very fitting.
I’ve been called a fool a few times, and that’s okay.
“You just gave him your hard-earned money and who knows how he’s going to spend it.” – she said of my stopping to help a begging homeless man.
“10% of EVERYTHING you make?! I won’t let no church people get richer at my expense.“ – he said of my practice and testimony of tithing.
“I will wait until I am absolutely sure that the kids actually benefit from this.” They said of their own desire to sponsor a child.
I get sad when I hear these kind of statements, not because I’m better than that, but because they’re a reflection of my own thoughts and judgment at different times, and in different situations.
We’ve become skeptical, and somewhat desensitized, because of fear. And the spirit of fear blocks love, clouds our mind, and leaves us powerless to make a decision, prone to give up.
The blunt truth is that I don’t know what people will do when I give to them directly, and I don’t sit on the board of the organizations I choose to give to. I also don’t manage my church’s budget or know exactly how my tithing and offerings are spent. And I’m okay with that.
[Tweet “Giving is not about outcomes, it’s about actions. #motivationformoms”]
Making a difference is not about what will come from our action, but about the action in itself.
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” ~ Mathew 25:35-36
It’s not completely clear what happened because of the drink, the meat, the clothes, or the visits. It’s about the goods shared, the time invested, the loving care felt. What’s clear is that being compassionate, helpful, and charitable is about being Christlike.
Everyone can make a difference.
Everyone can try to.
Because helping is not about being attached to knowing exactly what the outcome will be. It’s about letting a fellow child of God know there is someone who cares, someone who sees just how worthy and beautiful s/he is in the sight of God. It’s about being a cheerful giver. When I give, it’s all about my intentions before I give, my efforts while I give, and not about what happens after I give.
Despite all the negative headlines and all the alarming statistics, there is goodness in this world. The power of contribution helps us connect, grow, and gain a sense of perspective. Think of your own good deeds – when you’ve guided, supported, or gotten someone through a difficult time, when you’ve mothered… There’s so much beauty in that.
Think of the 3rd graders who go to every school in the community trying to help their peers be respectful and resolve conflict in a peaceful manner. They are anxiously engaged in their worthy endeavor, fully committed to their vision, yet not caught up in outcomes they can’t control, track, or measure.
Smiles. Listening. Supporting. Teaching. Caring. Hugging. Paying forward. Wisdom. Respect. Love. The most sacred gifts have no tangible return on investment.
If not knowing what happens when you give has ever held you back from giving, you can learn, like I did. There are ways the story can go when you give, but when you don’t, this is the only outcome: nothing will happen. And that’s the worst.
I was privileged to be in on the action. To see the children, meet the youth, visit the families, walk into the schools, and learn about the communities where World Vision is making a difference. The stories were inspiring and my heart was overflowing with joy, and gratitude to be a part of it, and to have been given an opportunity to use my voice to amplify this work. But I know you weren’t there… and I find that my writing and my photography may be inadequate to paint a proper picture of the impact one generous person can make through child sponsorship. If you do decide be a cheerful giver anyway, you can see which children are available for sponsorship in the Dominican Republic, and pay your blessings forward, no matter how little you have or how busy you can be.
Everyone can make a difference. You can too. Throw the stone in the pond and the ripple effect will inevitably start. By impacting a person now, you can impact multiple generations to come. It’s not just a cliche saying. You can influence more people than you can ever imagine!
How are you making a difference in the world? Tell us your favorite way to be a difference maker. Because one person can make a difference, everyone can try, and together, we can create positive change.