Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
― Robert F. Kennedy
From now until the end of the year, many will be blessed with more than enough. We will flit from one party to the next, from one heaping plate to another, from store to store to store. We will wrap countless gifts to put under the tree for children and grandchildren who lack little, if anything at all.
Satiated, we may not register the bounty of our existence. We may not recognize the need of others.
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Every year during the holidays I marvel at my good fortune. As a journalist I often interview people whose lives are very different from mine, whose needs are vast but who nevertheless manage to struggle on. Sometimes what differentiates our circumstances is minimal: an illness, say, or a disability, or the chance at an education, or the gift of a loving family. I think: There but for the grace of God…
I’m embarrassed to admit that I calm that restless guilt by putting pen to checkbook (or now, keying into my Bill Pay tab on online banking) and then continuing on my merry way. A pat on my own back and the rest forgotten.
So I’m forever amazed by the kindness and commitment of simple people who believe one person with a passion can change the world. I’m astonished by their persistence to do their part. They act regardless of their own challenges and problems, in spite of the demands of jobs and families and ambitions.
They never doubt that one person can make a difference. One person can shake a neighborhood, a city, a society. One person, one singular, solitary person, can possess the extraordinary grace and power to be Robert Kennedy’s “tiny ripple of hope.”
They remind me of the power of one. My baby sister and her husband set up a nonprofit to help, among others, a school in one of Miami-Dade’s poorest neighborhoods. Along with their friends — other lawyers, doctors, dentists and teachers — they provide professional services to the needy, organize back-to-school and clothing drives, and introduce migrant workers’ children to the possibility of higher education. And they believe. And imagine. And trust that their contribution, however small, means something.
One daughter-in-law, a nurse, founded a charity to provide low-income families with Thanksgiving meals through the Children’s Home Society. She invites donors to help in the collection of food items, construction of the meals and their drop-off. Another daughter-in-law, who runs an Etsy shop that creates hair accessories, launched her first holiday headband drive for little girls receiving cancer and blood disorder treatments.
“While the gift of a simple headband may seem silly or maybe even insignificant,” she wrote in a mass email to friends and family, “my hope is that it will bring a smile to someone who might be in desperate need of some cheering up that day.”
So here’s my toast to ordinary people doing extraordinary things. People with courage, people with energy and heart, people who do more than recognize their blessings. They actually share them with others.