Monday, June 17, 2013

The Reach of One...

Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or for evil, - the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life.  ~ William George Jordan, “The Power of Personal Influence”

I think it is fair to say that most of us try to use our talents, abilities and passions for the betterment of society.  That seems to be particularly the case when it comes to those within the circles of our influence.  Yet, doesn't it seem rare that we are  blessed with the chance to see how such efforts might make a positive difference in someone’s life?  Most often we carry on because it feels like the right thing to do whether we are noticed, praised or even thanked for our efforts.  However, from time to time we may ask ourselves if what we do really matters to anyone:   "Are my efforts really making a difference?"

History is full of examples and legends of how one person has changed the world.  Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, the Founding Fathers of this nation all brought individual talents to the drawing board before they were collectively acted upon by others.  These individuals inspire us and give us hope that we all possess a certain intrinsic power to initiate change.  Yet, in reality, there are not many of us who will be listed in textbooks as being a person who changed the course of history.

I love the empowering quote by Robert F. Kennedy that says, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events.  It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.  Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

A tiny ripple of hope.  One single idea.  An outward demonstration of compassion.  Those ideals are born in the minds of one single individual.  History has proved that we can originate change. The examples of others demonstrate that the possibility exists to make a mighty difference in our own little spheres of influence.  As individuals, we can initiate tiny ripples with the potential to become roaring currents.  There is much  that needs to be done at the global level, but there is also much to do within our own families, neighborhoods and communities.    

Recently, I have become aware of some seemingly small actions by a couple of individuals, the results of which were are impactful.  My daughter-in-law shared a copy of an essay written by one of the young men our son Chase has the privilege of serving in our church.  This young boy had a school assignment to describe someone who is a role model to him.  He wrote a piece about Chase and described the amount of time spent on his behalf and the effort made to teach, guide and nurture him and the other boys in his group. 

Hans Rosin of Revere, MA writes, "Although I’m surrounded by loving and caring people every day of my life that I’m thankful for, what sets Chase apart from everyone else is his determination, courage, and his Will of Fire.  Every day he inspires me to become a better person just like he is. I want to be someone who brings a smile to the faces of those around me. Someone others depend on for advice and guidance, but most of all I want to be as good as him in basketball.  I want to be a Man who lives up to be as dignified and righteous as Chase."

So often you hear about the scout leader who is given a run for his money year after year after year and he must wonder if there are any good “fruits of his labors.”  Yet, once in a while you get an indicator, such as this essay, to show that your efforts to reach out and share your talents and abilities with others is worth it. .  . maybe, just maybe you are making a difference for good.

Another example of how broad the scope of our influence can be is reflected in the small gestures of a sweet 100 year-old woman known fondly as "Grandma Miller."  Grandma Miller was born one of nine children in Mayfield, Utah in 1912.  She spent most of her life raising her own five children in Venice, Utah where education, music and a strong sense of family were her focus.  Living in a rural setting did not hamper her desire for her and her children to have great opportunities for learning.  She learned from an early age to develop her talents,  to serve others and  to cultivate her intelligence.  She continues to focus on those things to this day.

Grandma Miller lost her husband a few years ago and now lives with her daughter in Salt Lake City.  Because of her age, it is difficult for her to get out much and yet surprisingly, she will still go on an occasional family camping trip and she attends a few concerts and events with the aid of her walker.  She reads the daily newspaper, watches the news and crochets scrubbies. 

For those of you that have never had the pleasure of washing dishes with a Grandma Miller scrubby, you are missing out.  She does not just make a scrubby from time to time; she makes scores of scrubbies every week.  Her daughter reports that she buys a hundred yards of netting at a time and hopes it will keep her busy for a month.  These are small gifts of love.  It is her way of contributing to those who know and love her and to many who have never met her.

A few months ago, my husband and I took a trip to Nepal with three other couples to do some humanitarian work.  In my suitcase were approximately one hundred Grandma Miller scrubbies.  These colorful little gifts of love were passed out to women in the villages where we worked.  The women’s faces lit up when we gave them this little gift and their eyes widened when we told them they were made by a one hundred year old American woman. 

Who would have thought that this sweet 100 year-old woman's scrubbies would bring smiles to the faces of dozens of female villagers in rural Nepal?  In fact, not only have they been passed out in Nepal but they have been distributed over the years throughout the Middle East and to missionaries serving in Switzerland.  One woman, one idea, worldwide distribution.  Get the picture? 


“You don’t have to be a person of influence to be influential.  In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.”  ~Scott Adams

Our efforts need not be grandiose, and we should never think because they do not seem significant, they are not important or needed.  The focus should always remain on sharing whatever gifts we have; our smile, our encouragement, our belief in others, our knowledge, our brawn, our ideas, our passions.  We should never be tempted to underestimate the power or momentum of a single idea originating from one individual.  The possibilities are endless and the truth of it is that we may never know how far reaching our influence has or will become.  Whether a ripple, wave, current or even a tidal wave, it all begins within.

Whether we see the how far the ripple might carry is not important.  What is important is tossing the pebble into the pond, or making one more scrubby or unwittingly being a positive role model. 

Besides all that, knowing the full extent of our influence would probably create the wrong reason for doing it in the first place.


No comments: