There’s an old story we always used to tell back in my days at City Year. It goes like this:
A young girl is walking down the beach & notices that the tide has gone out, leaving thousands of starfish on the beach to bake and die in the sun. In her simple childhood innocence, she begins rescuing Starfish one by one by throwing them back into the sea. An older man also happens to be walking along the beach. He approaches her and says:
“Young lady, WHAT are you doing?! You can’t possibly make a difference to all these Starfish, thousands will die despite your effort.”
The young girl seems crushed at first, but then defiantly leans over, picks up a Starfish and lobs it to safety. Looking back to the man she says:
“Well sir, looks like I made a difference to that one!”
You’ve probably heard the above story before…It’s a very popular one in social change circles, and with good reason. It’s true the world faces massive challenges, and they can seem overwhelming. But the fact is—if you can change the trajectory of just one life, you’ve changed the trajectory of the world. Remember this the next time you think the world is beyond saving.
What if we all had just one cause that had deep meaning for us that we devoted 10 hours to each month? What if that was the only cause we focused on? What if everyone did this?
I’ll give you an example – about a year ago, I decided that I was going to focus my ten hours serving each month (I think just about everyone should do 8-10 hours of volunteering per month, but that’s another topic for another day…) on just one organization – World Relief. World Relief helps incoming refugees acclimate to life in the U.S. The reality is, the number of families coming far exceeds the capacity of World Relief’s support staff, so they need volunteers to help families navigate tasks such as renting an apartment, grocery shopping, and making appointments. For refugees thrust into a strange country because of circumstances beyond their control, even the small things become daunting. I knew I could help, so I work with the same family each week. I teach them English, help them navigate appointments, and just generally make sure they aren’t lost in a system they don’t understand…
See, the key here is, I’m building a relationship of trust and deep friendship with them. Because I only focus on them, we can really get into our English lessons or just go to a cultural outing on a Friday night. Again, it’s not more than ten hours per month, but its focused, it’s deliberate, and I will be a part of their lives for the foreseeable future. I know in my heart I’ll make a far deeper, far more meaningful impact in their lives than a one-time service event.
What if we all did this? What if everyone had one cause they devoted ten hours (and heck, while I’m at it, 10% of their resources) to each month? We could change our country! Every kid struggling to read could have a reading partner every week who, get this, wouldn’t disappear!! No refugee family would have to arrive to the U.S. only to be defeated by systems they simply do not understand. Most importantly, this would do more to bridge the gap between races, between the rich and the poor, between refugee and resident than just about anything else out there.
Change one life and you’ve changed the world. Get started now by finding one cause to pour yourself into. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help discovering what that is.
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