Wednesday, May 29, 2013
One Person Can Make a Difference
Many of us are accustomed to thinking that what we do as individuals can't possibly make a difference in the world, but with the power of the Internet behind us, it's getting easier than ever for a small group, or even one person, to take action that can generate significant change. All it takes is one person with an idea and a few connections, and suddenly, things happen. Maybe you can't change the lives of everyone on the planet, but changes tend to have a ripple effect, so even if you change only one other person's life, you will have done something. The trick is to get started.
History has recorded many men who have made a difference, among them Mohandas Gandhi, who is known by the title, Mahatma, a Sanskrit term of respect that means "Great Soul." Gandhi (1869-1948) led the people of India in a movement toward independence from Great Britain that was based on nonviolence and civil disobedience. Not only did he change the lives of the people of India, he also influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), who led African Americans in the American Civil Rights Movement.
I'd like to highlight a few women who have made a difference, and some children who are now making a difference.
Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927) founded the Girl Scouts of the USA, which has had a positive effect on many girls in this country, myself included.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing, served in the Crimean War and later established the first secular school of nursing in the world. Not only did she improve health care in England, she also advocated for hunger relief in India and helped to make nursing an "acceptable" occupation for women. Without her influence, my mom might not have become a nurse.
Oprah Winfrey (1954– ) is often cited as one of the most powerful women in the United States, largely due to her afternoon talk show, on which she encouraged her audience, largely made up of women, to read good books, improve their lives, and explore spirituality. With all the money she's earned on TV, she has also been able to help young girls in Africa get a good education. CNN did a report on 10 people we wouldn't know without Oprah Winfrey. The list includes Dr. Phil McGraw, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, and her personal trainer, Bob Greene. Gary Zukav, author of a number of books on spirituality, rocketed to fame as a result of his appearance on Oprah's show. Oprah has opened up public discussion of a number of topics that used to be taboo.
Katie Couric (1957– ) is another TV personality who has had a lot of influence on the American public. Many remember her work on 60 Minutes and The Today Show, but she will probably go down in the history books as the first female solo news anchor on The CBS Evening News. One of the most courageous things Couric did was to have a colonoscopy done on live TV. The procedure was watched by millions, and resulted in a 20% spike in colonoscopy procedures in the years that followed. Michael Kreines, MD, a gastroenterologist, stated in a news article, "Many lives have been saved by people inspired by Katie's live demonstration that a colonoscopy is not uncomfortable or embarrassing."
There have been a number of women through the years who have changed lives even though their names are not generally recognized. Josephine Cochrane (1839-1913) is one. Believe it or not, she invented the first practical mechanical dishwasher in 1886, and presented it at the 1893 World's Fair. The next time you pop your dishes in the dishwasher, give Josephine a thought.
There have been some great reports in recent years on kids who have had an impact. They include Abigail Lupi, 10, who sang for her great-grandmother's 100th birthday at an assisted living center and realized that a lot of old folks don't get many visitors. Now she leads an ensemble of 13 girls ages 6 to 13, who have performed for the elderly at 20 different locations with a repertoire of 90 Broadway and pop songs.
Charlie Coons, 13, was shocked to hear her big brother tell stories about conditions in an orphanage in Jordan, where he had volunteered. She decided to make fleece blankets created from kits, and invited her friends to help out. They shipped their first 50 blankets to the orphanage in Jordan. Her father, a Rotary Club member, lined up speaking engagements for his daughter, who spoke about an organization she had created to raise money for more blankets. Her group is called HELP (Hope Encouragement Love Peace). HELP has sent 700 blankets to nine nations with the help of some international children’s groups.
Winter Vinecki, 12, is a runner who has raised thousands of dollars for cancer research. She realized that she could raise even more by competing with a team in races and triathlons. In 2008, her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Winter was only 9 that year, but she swam, ran, and cycled her way through a triathlon with members of "Team Winter" to raise over $100,000 for prostate cancer treatment and research. Unfortunately, Winter's dad died less than a year after his diagnosis, at the age of 40, but Team Winter has continued to raise awareness and money for research. The team now comprises 200 athletes, who have helped to raise over $250,000 for prostate cancer research and treatment.
There are boys, too, but I wanted to focus on girls, for a change. With so many wonderful people like these in the world, we are indeed blessed. I hope many more young people will be inspired to make positive changes in the world. :-)