Don’t underestimate what one person can do

Last year I memorized and meditated on these three statements. Together, they are finding purchase in my mind and making a difference in my life.

  • “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” John F. Kennedy
  • “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Edward Hale
  • “Do not hesitate to do for one what you might need to do for all, or else you won’t do anything.”

Don’t underestimate the impact that one person can have.

The following is my favorite story of all time.

The African bishop, Desmond Tutu, was once asked why he became an Anglican priest. He replied that in the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and then nod his head as a gesture of respect.

“One day,” Tutu said, “when I was just a little boy, my mother and I were walking down the street when a tall, white man, dressed in a black suit, came toward us. Before my mother and I could step off the sidewalk, as was expected of us, this man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her! I was more than surprised at what had happened, and I asked my mother, ‘Why did that white man do that?’ My mother explained, ‘He’s an Anglican priest. He’s a man of God, that’s why he did it.’ When she told me that he was an Anglican priest, I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God.”

Desmond Tutu not only became a priest, he influenced his entire nation. He, along with Nelson Mandela, led the successful fight against apartheid which changed the course of South Africa.

The priest that deeply impacted young Tutu’s life probably never knew “the rest of the story”; but through one simple act of kindness he deeply impacted one life which would deeply impact an entire nation.

There are 7 billion people on planet earth, but don’t let that large number deter you from doing what you can, individually, to make an impact.

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14 thoughts on “Don’t underestimate what one person can do

  1. Don,
    Great advice. And, you may never know the impact you have on the life of another. Not knowing is not a reason to not try. You may have to wait until heaven to know your impact!

    • Randy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’re right, we seldom know the impact we’re having, but someday we will. Don

  2. As a missionary, I was sitting in the airport in Hong Kong, waiting to board a flight. China, which was then much more closed to the gospel then that it is even now, was just a few miles away with i9ts 1 billion people. I recall feeling overwhelmed by the enormous take of reaching China with the gospel, when I felt the Lord remind me; don’t concern yourself with what you cannot do, only concern yourself with what you can do, and I will do the rest. I am the one that puts everything together, not you.

    A lesson learned

  3. Its amazing how God can use an individual in a mighty way. I am reminded of the Anglican Cleric John Newton who was once the captain of a slave ship. The Holy Spirit convicted him and he renounced the slave trade and was brought to faith by God’s grace. Without this man we would have never uttered these poetic words: “Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease; I shall possess, within the veil, a life of joy and peace. (Amazing Grace).” This mans poetic words has helped people all over the world worship their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was only one man that God used mightily for His glory.

    • Sage, thanks for sharing another example of how one person can make a difference in the lives of many. I had not heard of that verse of Amazing Grace but will use it next time we sing the song. Don