- Mental Health
How Can You Make a Difference in Your World
Story of the Starfish, by Loren Eiseley
While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water. He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die. ”Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”
What Does It Mean to Make a Difference?
The story above is one of my favorites. It's so easy to look at the world today and decide that there's just too much world hunger, violence, hate, crime, or child abuse today. No one can possibly fix it or even make a difference. Even narrowing it down to a community, it seems the same. Much too difficult. Taking it even smaller, does it seem that students can't make a difference in their schools, employees can't make a difference in their workplaces, or even children not being able to make a diffference in their families. It's easy to think, "I'm too small", "I'm too young", "I'm too old", or "I don't have what it takes".
What does it mean for a single person to make a difference? It starts with a single thought or concept that leads to a positive action that changes the life or lives of one or more people for the better. One person doesn't have to eradicate world hunger to help someone who is hungry. One person doesn't have to bring about world peace to talk to the underdog who's being bullied at school. One person doesn't have to end child abuse to mentor a child, help a struggling parent, be a camp counselor. It means seeing a problem, having a concern, learning about a cause that means something, and taking a step toward fixing it. Anyone, young, old, sick, well, happy, sad, disabled, or whole can make a difference.
Those Who Are Making a Difference
Everyday, people all over the world are changing lives. Here are some that seem impossible that have happened or are happening close to home.
1. Rachel Wheeler, a 12 year old from Deerfield Beach, Florida, attended a Food for the Poor meeting with her mother and learned about conditions that many Haitians were living in. She learned that kids lived in cardboard houses and ate mud cookies. She decided she wanted to help, so she began a fundraising campaign with a goal of helping to build 12 homes in a village just outside Port-au-Prince. She had bake sales, passed cans around at homecoming games for donations, and sold homemade potholders. Her efforts over three years raised over $250,000, and 27 2 room homes were built. She is now working to help rebuild a school that was devestated in a tornado in 2010.
2. Aria Novak, a 5th grade girl from Illinois, was being bullied along with other children on her bus. Instead of becoming depressed or fighting back, she decided to launch an anti-bullying campaign. She approached school officials about a "Time for Kind Day", which she described as a "really cool day where everyone could be nice to each other". Various activities were done in classrooms focusing on positive interaction with one another. It was even indicated that some of the "bullies" of the school apologized for past behaviors on that day. Aria has taken her initiative nationwide through media, and spoken with Michelle Obama in an effort to stop school bullying.
3. Hunter Scott, a Pensacola, Florida native, was a 6th grade student when he watched the movie, Jaws, with his father. During the movie, he heard a retelling of a story about Captain McVay and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during WWII. Captian McVay was court marshalled and it appeared to Scott that the court marshall was unjust. He decided to do a 6th grade history project on the event. He conducted research, collected artifacts, and interviewed close to 100 survivors of the sinking. It became evident that the survivors also did not feel McVay was to blame. Hunter Scott took his case to the US Congress in Washington DC and testified before Congress regarding the innocense of Captain McVay. Three years later, in 2000, Captain McVay was exonerated posthumously for any wrongdoing in the sinking of the ship. One young teenager did what adults had been trying for many years to do. Hunter Scott carries the dog tags of Captain McVay, and during his testimony to Congress, he made this statement, " I carry this dog tag to remind me that only in the United States can one person make a difference no matter what the age." (A book was written about the USS Indianapolis with Hunter Scott as a teenager writing the prologue--See Amazon below).
4. Loyce Doering, 96 years old, volunteers at a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, visits nursing homes, crochets baby clothes for navy personnel, and does sewing for neighbors whenever there is a need.
5. Steve White, another Jacksonville, Florida native once lived with his wife in Gainesville, Florida, but the family decided to downsize, move to a smaller home, and allow Steve to pursue an unpaid career helping the homeless. He began to hear stories about reasons people were on the streets, including loss of jobs causing forclosure, illnesses causing large medical bills, and so many other things. He now donates tents, assists with food and clothing, and provides transport to medical appointments. In these ways, homeless individuals and/or families are able to gain more pride and see more possibilities, with the potential of getting back on their own feet.
So Where Do You Fit In?
Where do you see yourself in this? Are you the person who feels that the problem is just too big so there's no use trying to fix it? Are you the student bully who causes the problem and feels no need to fix it? Are you the athlete, scholar, or celebrity that feels you are too important to help? Do you not recognize what problems exist? Are you depressed, sad, or angry and feel you can't possibly do anything good in this life? If the latter is more like you, it is interesting to note that studies have found that people who experience anxiety or depression and turn those feelings into altruism and helping others experienced an improvement in mental health symptoms.
Do you not know where to start? Find a cause that hits close to home or means something to you. Are you passionate about children, the homeless, those struggling with poverty, single mothers, children from abusive homes, domestic violence, helping your neighbors, stray animals...the list is endless. Do one thing today to help one person that struggles with this issue. For example, create large ziplock bags of easy to open foods (pop tab cans of fruit, bottle of water, canned meat, etc) along with a few toiletries, and when you pass someone homeless on a street corner, hand them the bag. If they are truly in need, they will be grateful. Include a guide with homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, etc to give this person future assistance.
Can you imagine what would happen if every writer on hubpages helped one person today? That would be thousands of people making a difference. Better yet, what if every author and each of their readers helped one person. That becomes tens of thousands of people. The community of Hubpages could significantly make a difference in the lives of others.