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Make a difference to just one

Even in America, the land of plenty, there are so many people who need food, shelter, a helping hand, and a kind word. It’s true, the safety net created by public and private organizations is multi-layered and highly efficient, but it is, after all, a net not a pillow. Nets have holes.

Looking at the many unmet needs it’s easy to be intimidated by the scale and we feel justified in our indifference because, “Hey, I pay my taxes and contribute to charities, don’t I? What more can I do, right? I’m just one person.”

Here is a condensed version of a one of my favorite stories, which was created by my friend and favorite futurist, Joel Barker, who was inspired by Loren Eiselely’s book Starthrower.

A man was walking on a familiar stretch of beach one morning after a storm. Up ahead he could see a stranger coming toward him. The stranger was continually stooping over, picking up something and tossing it in the ocean. Finally, the man could see that the stranger was throwing some of the thousands of tiny starfish the storm had washed up on the beach overnight.

As the two men drew near and exchanged greetings, the man commended the stranger for his efforts, but also commented on the futility of such a task. “There must be hundreds of thousands of starfish on this beach. How could one person possibly make a difference?” Picking up another tiny starfish and tossing it back into the ocean, the stranger answered, “Made a difference to that one, didn’t I?!”

Here’s a pledge I will make to you and ask you to consider making: As I race through my hectic, self-important life, at least once a day I will try to make a difference in another person’s life.

Could be as simple as holding a door, patting a back, giving a compliment, noticing a frown. Or perhaps something a little more involved like checking on someone with a call or visit, creating an opportunity, providing a meal, (your idea here).

With a world full of unmet needs, at the end of the day at least we can say, “Made a difference to that one, didn’t I?!”

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