The massive mountain of problems facing our world today can be extremely overwhelming. As we witness war, global warming, terrorism, discrimination, crime, poverty, hunger, disease, sex trafficking, pollution, and a whole host of other evils, we often feel helpless. I know that in the past I have caught myself thinking, “How could I possibly make a difference? I am just one person, a tiny grain of sand on a huge beach, a single star in a sky of billions.” While this pattern of thought is natural, it is dangerous because it leads to inaction; which then leads to no progress and more harm. For example, if a quarterback stops trying in the middle of a football game because he believes that it was impossible to beat the other team, his team will certainly lose, and his teammates will feel disheartened. In reality, every person has an ability and a duty to make an impact.
Throughout history, motivated individuals have shown that it is possible to tackle big challenges and change the world. For example, in the early first century, Paul of Tarsus traveled over 10,000 miles to spread Christianity rapidly throughout the largely polytheistic Roman Empire, where the persecution of Christians was legal and common. In the late 1700s, George Washington helped form and lead the United States of America, setting precedents that still affect this unique, free nation today. During WWII, Alan Turing worked tirelessly to break the extremely complex Nazi Enigma code, helping the Allies win the war and pioneering the modern computer in the process. And in the mid 1900s, Martin Luther King Jr. nonviolently advanced the Civil Rights Movement and played a key role in achieving equality in a country full of relentless racism.
It is evident that all of the people above made a difference when faced with overwhelming obstacles, and today, many others are following in their footsteps. For instance, Rachel Zelon, a driven American woman, co-founded and now helps lead Hunger Relief International, an organization that has provided over 7 million meals for people all around the world and taught community members how to grow their own food. Betty Makoni, a Zimbabwean gender activist, created the Girl Child Network, which has saved over 7,000 girls from abuse, child labor, and sex trafficking. And bartender Doc Hendley created and now runs a program called Water to Wine, which has helped communities in Cambodia, Africa, and Peru build hundreds of water wells. These are just a few examples of hundreds that demonstrate how people are currently changing the world around them for the better. Now, it's your turn!
I know what you are most likely thinking: “I could never do what these people have done. They are the exception, and I am just a normal person.” However, it is important to realize that most of these influential individuals were once “normal people” too. None of them probably ever dreamed of making such a difference in the world, but they worked hard towards their goals, and eventually they accomplished what had seemed impossible before.
It is also important to recognize that everything in the world is interconnected. Thus, directly impacting the life of just one person can lead to a domino effect, in which your actions indirectly influence hundreds or even thousands of people. For instance, helping a friend study every night may help her get a degree in secondary education. Then, as a biology teacher, she could inspire a student to be a doctor. Someday, that doctor may save a patient from cancer, and as a result, that patient could become a motivational speaker, giving hope and encouragement to thousands of other cancer patients. Sound a little far-fetched? Just think about someone in your own life who has impacted you a lot. I will use my youth leader, Jenny, who encouraged me to go on my first mission trip, as an example. Without her, my faith, which is the very core of who I am, would be nowhere near as strong as it is right now. After you have come up with your own influential person, ponder who affected that individual’s identity and journey. I know that Jenny was greatly affected by the previous youth leader at my church, whom she volunteered with. In fact, if it hadn't been for the previous leader’s kindness and mentoring, Jenny most likely wouldn't have taken over the position. The connections stretch endlessly in many directions: I will end up impacting others due to my strengthened faith, and many people influenced the previous youth leader before she even came into Jenny’s life. If just one person was removed from the web of connections, nothing would be quite the same. Ultimately, you make a much more profound impact than you often realize! Therefore, making a difference isn’t as hard as it may seem.
Hopefully, I have convinced you of the fact that you can make a difference in the world, but the question still remains: how can you do this? Well, first it is important to realize that in order to make a difference you don’t have to do anything extremely grand or revolutionary like the historic figures I mentioned earlier (though it is possible if you put your mind to it). You could be the one who encourages the next Martin Luther King Jr. of the world or the one who comes up with great ideas behind the scenes. In fact, you could even change the world of just one person, and your role would be no less important. Overall the key to making a difference involves loving others in every situation, setting challenging goals, and working hard towards one’s goals. For those of you who are religious, it is also important to trust God and to remember that with Him, anything is possible! If you do these things, I am certain that you will make a positive impact on the world! So, what are you waiting for?