Last week, Ethan and I watched a documentary called “The Starfish Throwers,” and it reminded me of a very important truth. Every one can make a difference whether it is to just one starfish or to many. The documentary was about three individuals who had dedicated their lives to making a difference.
One was a Chef in India who decided to start cooking and delivering meals to the “untouchables” who lived on the streets. The second person was a man who was a retired teacher in Minnesota, who tirelessly dedicated every evening to delivering sandwiches to the homeless. The last person was a 9 year old girl who grew a 40 lbs. cabbage for a school project and turned that into Katie’s Kitchen, a non-profit that grew fresh produce that was then made into meals to serve to the homeless in South Carolina once a month. All of these individuals faced naysayers and still pushed on to make a difference.
I could barely hold back my tears while watching this movie. I wasn’t crying, because of the issues of homelessness, which I am well aware of, but because these three people had dedicated their lives to making a difference. I could relate to their plight and the hardship of proving people wrong when they say that, “one person can’t make a difference.” I have always believed the contrary. If everyone believes that no one can make a difference than no one will, but if each individual feels empowered enough to make a difference on their own then we will have a greater impact.
When I was 12 years old, I saw an infomercial about starving children in Africa and it brought me to tears. I went to my mother and told her that there are children that are starving in Africa and we have so much food here in America. I didn’t understand how this could be. She said to me, “instead of getting upset, do something about it!” So I did. I went to school the next day and applied to start my own after school club called ‘Feed the Children.’ I wanted to raise awareness about hunger in our country and abroad. No child should go hungry. I organized bake sales to raise money for the Feeding America Fund and the Great American Bake Sale. We also used funding to sponsor a child through Children International. I organized walks for hunger and benefit concerts to raise awareness and money. I served meals at the soup kitchen twice a month. I was dedicated to making a difference.
Unfortunately, a lot of my friends didn’t care. They would tell me it was stupid and one person can’t make a difference. They would defile my posters for my club and write “Eat the Children” on them. I was called a hippie and laughed at for my efforts. I didn’t let it stop me though. The Indian Chef in the movie was not supported by his family at first. They told him that he was wasting his talents on these people. He was told he was a disgrace to the family. He didn’t let it stop him though, he went out there every day to feed these people. He eventually convinced his family that it was a worthy cause and then they were proud to be related to him. He built a center for these people to live so that they didn’t have to be on the streets anymore. His story was so moving, as were the other two.
If everyone who wanted to make a difference in the world listened to the people putting them down and just gave up, then there would be no good in the world. Even if we only make a difference to one or two people that is better than living a selfish life, because you think your efforts aren’t worth it. I still haven’t lost my idealism about the world. I want to believe that we can change things for the better, especially now in light of the election. We have to keep a positive mindset and keeping working towards the betterment of this planet or we will live in a very sad world.
If I listened to those so-called friends of mine back in high school, I never would be where I am today. I served as the President of the Community Service Club in College and encouraged other students to get involved in community service in Boston. I organized more benefit concerts and fundraisers than I can count for causes I felt passionate about. They say that your 20’s is for idealism and your 30’s is for realism, but not me. I have dedicated my life to making a difference and that is never going to change. I will continue to work in non-profits and to volunteer for the rest of my life. I will raise my children to value the same things.
When people say to me, “do you not like money?” My response is that I don’t need to be rich. I need my needs met and then I want to dedicate my time and money to helping others. I will never work in a for-profit industry. I can’t imagine my sole purpose every day being to make a bigger paycheck. I work at a food pantry and I make a meager pay, but when work gets stressful I can remind myself that I am helping feed and clothe families in need. If I was stressed at a normal job, I could only remind myself that I’m making money while doing it. Money that I would spend on possessions that make me stressed when they break or I lose them and then I need more money to replace them and so on and so on. That isn’t life for me.
Of course it is important to be able to support yourself and your family, but after a certain point it is just numbers in the bank. What is the real difference between 1 billion and 2 billion. You will never be able to spend that much in your lifetime. More money won’t make you happier after you have met your needs. Making a positive impact in other people’s lives will. Being of service to those in need or to the planet or other species is why we are here. We aren’t here alone. We must help each other and not be so greedy. Don’t put people down for wanting to help others instead of just helping themselves. That is far more noble than counting your money and living in isolation.
When I heard the poem of the starfish throwers about how the little kid throwing each starfish back into the sea knew they were at least making a difference to that one and the next one and the next one, I knew I was on the right path. We all have the power to make a difference even if it is to just one.