Nanci’s Blog

What One Person Can Do 

August 10th, 2006

In recent weeks at al fresco dinners and barbecues, discussions focused on the state of the world from politics, to AIDS, poverty, the weather etc. While some of them have been lively and insightful, inevitably someone in the group would say, “Well, we cannot change the world,” or something to that effect. My response is always, “You are right. You cannot change the world but you can change your world and in that way influence the world.”

With the many wars going on, corruption, poverty, and escalating deaths through AIDS and famine, it is understandable that we feel overwhelmed and despairing sometimes–as if life is taking us over rather than us being in the driving seat. But there is something that we can do about it. We can start by making changes in our world.

These don’t need to be monumental efforts taking hours of our time or huge amounts of money. They can be simple acts of courteousness, compassion and caring. For example:

1. Take someone that you don’t get on with at the office a drink/chocolate bar/fruit and wish them a good day.
2. When driving to or from work, make no rude comments to the drivers or cars around you. Give them space to pass or move in front of you and smile and wave.
3. Give someone a compliment–especially someone that you know that suffers from low self-confidence and self-esteem. Help them see their true potential.
4. Make one day about other people and not about you. Don’t focus on your needs or wants or desires but focus on how you can help others. Just for one day.
5. Monitor your thoughts for fifteen minutes and note how many self-defeating and negative thoughts you have. Change them.

If you are wondering how any of this is going to remedy any of the ills of the world, well by engaging in any act of kindness or having positive thoughts you will reduce the amount of fear and despair in the world by getting rid of your fear for just a moment. Yes, you. Just one person. In just one moment.

This beautiful story illustrates the power of one person:
An old man is walking along the beach and he sees a young man picking up small objects and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.” “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled old man. To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.” Upon hearing this, the old man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!” At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

Yes, we can all make a difference. Look around you and see what you can do to make a difference today. The world is not something that happens to us, it’s something that we constantly choose and create. Decide what kind of world you want to live in. Then start creating it. For example if you want a peaceful world, how can you bring peace in your life? If you want a world filled with kindness and generosity, how can you introduce these into your life? If you want an eco-friendly planet, what are you doing in your life to ensure this?

It all starts with us, not with others. We need to start making changes in our thinking, awareness and actions–that’s where and how the world is going to start to change. Lao-tzu, the Chinese philosopher said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

What step are you willing to take today? Remember, all it takes is one person.

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