No matter who you are. No matter your race, religion, ethnicity, nationality. No matter if you are male or female. No matter if if you are young or old or somewhere in the middle, far right or far left or somewhere in the middle. No matter if you are heterosexual or part of the LGBTQ community. There is one thing that I believe everyone can agree is true. There are problems in the world.
Human trafficking. Hunger. Clean water. War. Terrorism. Civil rights. The fight for equality. Racism. Hate crime. Murders. The environment. Health and disease. Health care. Help for those with disabilities. Education. The economy. Animal cruelty. Bullies. Online predators. Pedophiles. Nuclear threats. I’m sure you can add to this list and we could fill pages with a variety of things that we want to see end, change, get solved, get cured, made better. The problems exist on every continent, in every country, in the state you live in, in the city or town where you reside, and possibly within your own home and family. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that we are infinity capable of changing the world. Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.” We can all make a difference with the passion and the courage to put ourselves out there.
Certainly there are loads of famous people who use their fame and fortune to make a difference. Matt Damon works with The Water Project to bring clean drinking water to areas where there is none. Bono has the RED campaign working to fight the AIDS epidemic. Audrey Hepburn worked with UNICEF, Bob Hope made life a bit better for our troops through the USO, Dolly Parton helps promote literacy and bring employment to the poor area where she grew up, and Robert Griffin III has created a foundation to benefit struggling military families, underprivileged youth and victims of domestic violence. The list goes on and on. These folks have an advantage of fame and money to help their efforts, but not everyone with their assets are willing.
There are also others who have made major impacts without fame to help them. They take to heart Gandhi’s words that “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Alex’s Lemonade Stands were started by a then four-year-old cancer patient. By the time of her death at age 8, she had raised $1 million. They have now raised $140 million so her work continues. In 2006, Blake Mycoskie started a shoe company with the idea of donating one pair of shoes for each pair sold. According to their web site TOMS shoes have donated over 60 million pairs of shoes. They have branched out from their original mission to include efforts that have given eyeglasses to 400,000 people since 2011, have provided clean water, and as of 2015 they are working to train skilled birth attendants and distribute birth kits to poor mothers. Thirteen-year-old Mackenzie Bearup started collecting books for the children in the local homeless shelter. This has grown into Sheltering Books which supplies books to shelters across the country.
And there are quiet endeavors carried out daily by volunteers and thoughtful people everywhere. Pauley Perrette carries socks in her car and hands them out to homeless people she sees. Jessica Nupponen lifts people’s spirits through her chalk art and was the catalyst for a plan to put hats, gloves, and scarves on trees and posts in Camp Hill for anyone who needs them. I have friends who volunteer serving meals at soup kitchens, helping out at libraries, working through their churches for a variety of causes, gathering and distributing meals for food pantry programs, visiting elderly people in nursing homes, taking service dogs into nursing homes, and teaching adults to read. Each of these people contributes a little but they make a difference that accrues, builds, grows, and becomes contagious. I love these words from Bill Kemp, “The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time is the greatest influence in our society.”
Living Word Community Church in York, PA has a sermon series going on right now on relationships. Last week’s sermon really resonated with me. It was about making a difference and becoming an agent of change in relationships. I think that the lessons in the sermon and the handout that came in the program could certainly improve all of your relationships. But I believe that these principles applied to all areas of our life within our community, country, and world would bring about enormous changes. I challenge you to watch or listen to the sermon at http://lwccyork.com/messages/be-the-change/ and read the handout below. If you don’t want to listen to it as a Christian sermon, then listen to it as a talk on making a difference. It will, I think, speak to many of you.
We may not agree on which problems are the most important to address. That’s okay. If you work toward solving the ones that burden your heart and I work to solve the ones that weigh on mine, change will come. Solutions will come. And everyone will benefit.