Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Just One Person

If you ask me, there are two types of people in the world.  Some look at the problems in the world and say "I'm just one person.  What could I do?"  The rest look at same problems and ask "I'm one person.  What can I do?"

I am the second type.  The person who believes that even as just one person, she can make a difference.  The person who will do what she can do do just that.  And the person who likes to break big problems into bite size pieces, in order to show those around her how they, even as just one person, can help solve the problem.

In eighth grade, I was sitting in on a meeting to discuss how to raise the last $80,000 we needed to buy three of my town's beloved sculptures, so they could stay where they were instead of being moved to a museum somewhere.

My role in the fundraising campaign had generally been to wander the streets at city events with a collection box, tell people about the problem, and ask them to donate.  What I'd found was that people didn't usually react well, since they all thought I expected them to come up with large amounts of cash.  So while I listened to the adults discuss putting a notice in the utility bill with an option to add an extra fifty or hundred dollars to their payment as a donation, I did math.

"If every citizen of Kirkland gave two dollars, we'd have enough money."  They looked at me, amazed at my thinking.  Suddenly, we had a new tactic.  And it worked: the sculptures were saved.  Even as one person, and a young one at that, I know I made a difference.

About a week and a half ago, I participated in my church's annual service day.  Since it began in 2005, it has grown from 800 volunteers from one church helping to set up one elementary school to a few thousand volunteers from 30 churches working together (as if that isn't miracle enough) in eight schools and ten homes of families who had fallen behind on upkeep.  Read: a lot got done.

Driving home, I didn't feel so amazing about it.  My own contribution was relatively small: all 8 or so hours
had been spent sorting and shelving books for one fifth grade classroom in one elementary school.  I was one of 4 who made a major contribution to this small part of this one room.  I wondered if my contribution had really been worth it.  I was only one person, after all.  I was starting to become the first type of person.  I hadn't really done anything, except arrange this bookshelf.

Over the next couple of days, as I continued to wonder whether I'd really helped anyone, I slowly remembered how happy the teacher was that her books had been shelved in a somewhat comprehensible order.  More importantly, I realized that I was one person.  If I hadn't participated, maybe the work would still all have gotten done.  Maybe it would have taken a bit longer.  But it would have gotten done.  However, if everyone had looked at the event and said "I'm only one person, I won't make much of a difference if I volunteer", then nothing would have happened.  I was one less person looking at life the wrong way.

All I really want to say is... well, actually kinda cheesy.  You are just one person, but so is everybody else.  Maybe one person alone can't do much, but a large number of people working together can do a lot.  And one person has to be the one to prod that large group of people into action.

Maybe by starting this blog, I can inspire someone to be that one person.  Someone has to be.  So let me ask: will it be you?