The Power of One
Gandhi shared his words of wisdom with us when he said, “You may never know what results come from your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no results at all.”
These words are a reminder that one person can make a difference and everyone must try. When we touch the lives of those around us with small acts, they may seem quite insignificant when viewed as part of this vast world. But to the person we touch, the significance of that act becomes profound. The Power of One!
Two men were walking along the beach. They passed a native who was throwing starfish back into the sea, allowing them to swim back into the waters safely. When the men asked him what he was doing he simply replied that he was returning the starfish to the water. But the men reminded the native that this task seemed futile; the beach was covered with thousands of starfish. They were quick to point out that this little act would not make a difference to such a large number. With a smile on his face, the native hurled another starfish as he said, “Made a difference to that one!”
There are so many people who need each one of us, as caring Christians, to make a difference in their lives. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying,” I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the people of the world.” She firmly believed “…that if you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Of course we would love to influence and help large numbers of people in need of assistance, but it might be that God calls us to touch only one person at a time.
We all can relate to the phrase “comfort zone.” When we attempt to make changes in our lives, at first we feel uncomfortable. But not long after taking that initial step to move out of our comfort zone and think more of others, we experience a new-found freedom. Kent Crockett, a spiritual author, reminds us that God places many opportunities outside of our comfort zone and then asks us to come get them. What God needs is us!
A story is told about a young lifeguard on the beach of Florida. He suddenly was seen jumping down from his tower and waving the red flag for more help as he began to swim toward a drowning person. With strong strokes he arrived at the scene quickly to offer his assistance. When the person witnessing this event went back into the station to say thanks to the dedicated lifeguard, there was a huge sign on the wall that read IF IN DOUBT, GO! Maybe, wrote the storyteller, this sign should be on the wall of every church, home and person’s heart as we are all called to respond to the needs around us.
In an overpopulated world it is easy to underestimate the power of one. There are so many people with so many gifts and talents doing so many important things. We are tempted to ask: What can I, as one individual, contribute to the overwhelming needs around me? Helen Keller has been quoted as saying, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot be everything, but I can do something. Because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I CAN do!”
History is full of accounts of one individual who made a difference. Military battles won because of someone’s heroic deed. Artists, scientists, explorers, inventors, technical experts who literally changed the course of history because of their work. Where would we be without an Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Mother Teresa, St. Dominic or St. Francis, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, or Dorothy Day?
Many years ago there was a beautiful children’s book called “If Everybody Did.” It carries the theme of realizing how the power of one grows. The story is a beautiful “what if” story. What if one kind person takes the time to visit someone that is homebound; if one person helps another struggling with lack of food or essentials; if one person helps in the collection for the poor or the walk for life. It takes only one to believe with all his or her heart that every person matters. It takes only one to stand up doing the right, the kind thing for someone else. The story concludes with the happy ending — because one person does a good thing for another, his or her goodness became “catching” and they could proudly say, “Everybody did!”
Does one person make a difference? Think of Jesus. God so loved the world that God did something about it—he sent his Son – one Person. But then, perhaps it’s not simply knowing about Christ or the stories of the gospel. There’s a far deeper issue for each of us. We must ask ourselves: “What have I — what will I do about knowing Christ and hearing the gospel message of how he made a difference? What are the gospels saying to me about consciously exerting my Power of One in the world?
Sister Lauretta Leipzig