Can just One Person Change the World? (these people seem to think so)

Just One Man

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~Harriet Tubman

One vote can’t change the outcome of an election. One person can’t change public opinion. One voice has no volume, no impact, no possibility of igniting change in the masses, right?

“Who am I?” you might ask. Just a lone voice crying in the wilderness, a nobody, a small fish in an overwhelmingly large sea, right? A single drop in a veritable ocean of people and problems and conditions too large for one person to matter, after all.

I can’t make a difference. I can’t move  mountains. I can’t lift the world. I can’t change the course of a river or stay the tide or slow the turn of the globe.

So can I really make a difference? I mean can I really do something that matters?

Well, I don’t know.

Let’s ask these people:



256px-Mother_Teresa II



But wait just a minute! Foul! Those are historical actors on a stage very different than today. They were people placed in pivotal circumstances unlike anything before or since. They were people who rose to occasions that modern times can’t be compared to. I certainly can’t make those kinds of differences. History makes people, people don’t make history, right?

Hmmm. I don’t know. Let’s ask a few more people.

Introducing Jessica Rees

Jessica was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 11. Her parents would drive her to the hospital every day to receive outpatient treatment.

“One day,” her father reports, “we were leaving, and she just simply asked us, ‘When do all the other kids come home?'”

When Jessica found out that many of them would have to stay at the hospital, she wanted to help “make them happier, because I know they’re going through a lot, too,” she said.

So she started making JoyJars — containers full of toys, stickers, crayons, anything that might brighten a child’s day.

“She was really particular about what would go in the jars,” said her mother, Stacey. “It had to be something cool, it couldn’t be cheap or flimsy.”

Jessica created 3,000 JoyJars before she passed away this January. But her parents are carrying on her legacy.

Little 11-year-old Jessica, with so little time to live and so few resources. She saw a need. Asked a question. And changed some part of the world for 3,000 kids.

Jessica was one of three “Young Wonders” honored this year at “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.” You just have to watch this video!

There are Many More Jessicas in the World

But wait! There’s more. So many people are out there making a difference in their neighborhoods, communities and in the world, doing so much good, filling life, their lives and others’ lives with love and compassion and purpose and meaning and significance and happiness.

Please watch the videos below (there’s more at the end of this post as well). It was difficult to choose from so many more than are presented here. But to click away without viewing is to miss something deeply moving and very special. So please watch. If not all in one sitting, bookmark and return. But be warned; they are addicting!

They will change you at your core and inspire something noble and decent in you. That’s what these kinds of stories are supposed to do.

Inspired or Discouraged

So have you been duly inspired to do something amazing? Or are you discouraged, overwhelmed and filled with guilt and a sense of inadequacy?

If the former, go now and find something to throw yourself into. Go on. Don’t wait for me to finish here.

But if the latter, hang on and read just a little more.

Missing the Point

Why are some inspired and others overwhelmed or guilt-ridden at watching clips like these?

If you find yourself uncomfortably filled with guilt and anxiety, it may be because you find it easy to discover so-called “proof” that you’re not all that spectacular.

Perhaps your parents failed to make you feel special and you still see yourself through the lens you believe they saw you through.

If that’s the case, you may feel like you don’t, and perhaps can’t, measure up to the people featured here. They stand as emotional fingers pointing out your inadequacies, shouting your flaws and shortcomings from the rooftops.

Perhaps you’re comparing your trifling service to the grand scope of the CNN Heroes and don’t see how you can come close to doing what they do. They are great, so that makes you tiny (translated: inadequate) by comparison.

But please understand that size and scope are not important to creating a life of meaning and significance and happiness and doing good in a world in need of good people.

What you do is infinitely more important than the how many you do it for.

Not everyone was made to be a body builder. Not everyone was meant to be president or inventor or kung fu master. Likewise, not everyone has to open a school for imprisoned children or adopt 24 abandoned teens or save the whales or plant a rainforest in their backyard.

The point is just to break down the barriers of apathy and indifference or the sense that little ole me can’t do anything about the big bad world and start doing something!

So please don’t misinterpret this post as a call to repentance or as a public shaming for all you haven’t done. I haven’t done those things either.

Doing Something

Instead, see this post for what I intended it to be: A call to action. An inspiration to do. Motivation to believe little ole you can do so much more than you think. Proof, if you will, that the world doesn’t need the next Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa or Buddha. A few Jessicas scattered here and there would do just fine.

Perhaps you’re a mother of five, helping out at school, driving your kids to music lessons and soccer practice, serving at your church or helping Aunt May on weekends since the accident. So how will you possibly find time to do something meaningful with your life?

Guess what! You already are! You’re deeply involved with your kids, raising a family the best you can, helping others, being a force for good in your community already.

No need to do more in such cases. Be pleased. Enjoy the feeling of mattering. Enjoy the reward of doing what matters. Be happy for the difference you’re making in the lives of those who matter most to you.

Remember, action is what matters, not the scope of that action.

But if you sit at home most days, watching too much TV, wondering where the meaning of life wandered off to, then look around. Find a cause. Get involved.

Even little ole us, simple run-of-the-mill you and me, have a role to play in this world of ours, lifting it to new heights, blessing the lives in desperate need of being blessed. Both small and large causes are in need of willing hands. Step up and do something!

Join a club or volunteer with an organization. Look around for a need that needs filling, something you can get excited about, and get others motivated and organized and mobilized.

And then return here from time to time for a pick-me-up. We all need motivation and inspiration to keep going in the face of opposition or the overwhelming odds or the massive numbers in need. Try not to get too caught up in the largeness of the need and just serve. Pick at its corners. Focus on the difference you’re making in the lives you touch, not on the numbers you’re not able to reach.

Differences are made one person and one expression of compassion at a time.

Bonus Clips for a Super-Charged Dose of Inspiration:

Your Turn!

Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below!


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