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One Person Making A Difference

Updated on March 15, 2019
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

As an engineer, and being pragmatic, it is my nature to seek positive results. I often wonder what can one person do to make a difference and to what degree. Especially when it comes to some of the big problems that we face. Can one person, however famous or powerful, make a huge difference? It seems to me, as individuals, we should focus on activities that will bring us the most results.

- Mar. 2019

Background

I am not naive to believe that one person can solve some of the big problems such as race relations, or the Arab Israeli conflict, or poverty or global warming... However, each one of us can affect public opinion and indirectly cause a shift that may get us closer to a solution. The question becomes what type of activities or behavior will get us closer.

It is common believe that we should all be civil and avoid controversial topics in a public space. We should not speak of religion or politics in a family gathering. Is this a wise choice? Will avoiding a discussion get us any closer to solving a particular problem?

What Are The Options?

It seems to me, there are several options. We can keep our mouth shut and not discuss it. We can open a dialogue with someone we are friends with or an acquaintance. We can participate in a public forum such as a protest march or a peaceful demonstration. We can submit opinions to a newspaper editorial or publish a blog online. We can write a book or an article in the area of our expertise. We can go on national TV and voice our opinion...

For the average individual, the most safe and likely scenario is to keep quiet and suffer in silence.

For the few brave souls, they may try to engage others to discuss a controversial topic. It usually does not end well. No one will be swayed one way or another. You just get people upset.

The most successful individuals will try and publish a thoughtful article providing all sides of an issue and reach some common ground and possibly get the readers to think in a different way. Even if they are not convinced, they will walk away with a new understanding of the other side and where they are coming from.

A Real Example...

I will give one example that happened in my writer’s group. I belong to a writer’s group at our local library. There are about 15 members that meets twice a month and we read our pieces and receive critique and positive and constructive feedback from our peers. We try and focus on the writing technique and not on the content or subject matter. This is very hard to do when a topic happens to be controversial. The emotions gets in the way. Our moderator or facilitator will usually intervene to keep us on target and not get distracted by the emotional reactions.

I should also mention that most of our group are liberals in their political leaning. There are a few conservstives like myself and we generally get along well. We try and respect each other’s point of view even though we clearly disagree on many social and political issues of the day, we avoid direct confrontation.

This one time, I wrote an essay about current events that happened recently. I presented my opinion on this topic. It was controversial since it relates to race. However, I felt it was an important discussion to have since it clearly was on the mind of many. It was the Virginia statue case. The controversy was whether a statue of Robert E. Lee should remain or be removed from a public park. There was a demonstration which lead to violence and some people were killed and hurt in the mayhem.

My article appear below in the link section. It generated much discussion among the group. They also provided some constructive comments. As a result, it was much improved. The main result is that it opened a dialog among conservatives and liberals. We may not all agree but it help us understand each other and where we are coming from.

The key moment was when one of the member of the group emailed me. She is white and married to a black man. She has experienced much grief over the past several decades due to discrimination. She was very sensitive about this particular case. She contacted me directly and indicated she learned a bit more about the opposite opinion. Even though she disagree with me, she respected my position and my take on this topic. It was a crack in the door. I was glad to hear from her. We are friends today. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and went under treatment. Our group offered her love and support as any human being would. Our political differences seem petty compared to the health challenges we all face.

Summary

Can one person make a difference? I think he or she can. Given the right circumstances, we can all do our small part to bridge the gap. We are a free society. We are given free will. We are intelligent humans that can separate emotions from facts. Let’s make our world a better place, one discussion at a time.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jack Lee

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very cool article Jack. As with most subjects I inquire of my children and not preach except for the morality of issues. I think it far better to get a person with different views to question themselves rather than me questioning them.

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