Only takes one to make a difference

I just recently took my baby girl to Walt Disney World for family vacation. When we got there, I had a whole pocket full of money — bills of all denominations. As I took them out of my pocket, I was drawn to the phrase of our great country that appears on our money – “E Pluribus Unum” – Latin for “out of many, one.”

It really stands for the fact that our great country started with 13 colonies and then developed into one great nation.

So, I started thinking about the Power of One.

In the probation department, we are normally overwhelmed with the vast number of cases we have to deal with. There are well over 1,000 people on probation in Hancock County. How can we possibly help them?

Well, we do it one person at a time.

I stopped paying attention to the impossible task of changing everyone and started putting my actions into the possible act of helping them one at a time.

I once heard a story of a gentleman spending a vacation in a beachfront condo. A violent storm hit the beach one night with howling wind and heavy waves pounding the beach. It stormed all night. Just before daybreak, it all stopped, so the gentleman thought he would go out and see what damage came from the storm.

As he strolled, he saw that the beach was covered with starfish that had been thrown ashore and helplessly stranded by the great waves. Once the morning sun burned through the clouds, the starfish would dry out and die.

Suddenly, the man saw an interesting sight. A young boy who had also noticed the plight of the starfish was picking them up, one at a time, and flinging them back into the ocean.

“Why are you doing that?” the man asked the boy. “Can’t you see that one person will never make a difference? You’ll never be able to get all those starfish back into the water. There are just too many.”

“Yes, that’s true,” the boy sighed as he bent over and picked up another and tossed it into the water. Then as he watched it sink, he looked at the man, smiled and said, “But I sure made a difference to that one.”

One person cannot beat the odds. There will always be more to reach than time or energy or commitment can provide. But the truth is that each one of us can touch a few. How wrong we would be to stop helping anyone because we cannot help everyone.

You may only be one person, but you are one person who can make a difference. It has always been small acts of kindness that have changed the hearts and minds of others.

Many times, I’ve seen on Facebook where my friends have had their entire week made by some stranger buying them a cup of coffee, just because they were in line behind them.

Look for opportunities to serve others and provide them some small but significant kindness. Look for opportunities to thank those who are of service to you. Even your gratitude is an act of kindness toward another and has a profound impact. As adults and parents, we owe it to the children to teach them this simple but profound bit of advice.

I maybe come from an old-fashioned family. You know, my family immigrated to this great nation back in the 1950s when they crossed the great waters of the Ohio River from Kentucky into Indiana.

(One of these days, I’m gonna figure out where we were before Kentucky).

As a child, I was taught to show respect to people. Address a gentleman as sir and a woman as ma’am. When I come to a door, it is proper to hold the door for the next person. You can never tell what type of impact you may make on another person’s life by your actions or lack of action.

Consider this fact in your venture through life.

Let us all choose to change the world, rather than have the world change us. You often hear it quipped that one person can’t make a difference. I beg to differ.

You can certainly touch the lives of those around you with small, daily acts of kindness. When measured against the vastness of the world, these acts may be insignificant, but to the person whose life you have touched, the significance can become profound.

It is so easy to be nice. It is so easy to be kind. Give others a smile.

Just like Buddy the Elf said, “Smiling is my favorite.”

In an overpopulated world, it’s easy to underestimate the significance of one.

There are so many people who have so many gifts and skills that are already doing so many things that are so important — who needs me?

It’s when you stand up that you license other people to stand up. If you’ve ever seen a standing ovation, it starts with one big dummy standing up. And then pretty soon the whole stadium is standing up. And it’s a different moment.

Wayne Addison is chief probation officer for the Hancock County Probation Department and owner of Another Addison Auction.