One Person at a Time

Many times we are faced with tasks that seem much too daunting. Many times we are faced with tasks that appear insurmountable. Such is the case with making positive change in the world. There are many areas in which one can make a difference be it economics, refugee advocacy, third world development, and so on. Often we are aroused to seek one of these areas because of something we have read in the newspaper or heard on the television.

After deciding on which area to focus, the biggest question one faces is, “how can I make a difference?” We ask ourselves “what can I do?” It is very easy, and quite frankly natural, to look at the big picture and want to make a difference on a large scale. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, the reality is that few of us ever accomplish it. Rather, what I like to do is to help one person at a time. Focus on helping just one person and when you feel that they have gotten what they needed, or better yet, when THEY feel they have gotten what they needed, move on to the next person. It is important to manage and funnel those passions and that excitement into something concrete and manageable such that efforts will not go wasted. Unfortunately, we cannot help everyone. We all have the ability, however, to make a profound difference in the life of another person. Imagine that? Imagine if each person, every week, made it their goal to help someone else in their time of need. Imagine how remarkable the results would be?

It is incredibly easy to look at the big picture and want to help everyone. I’ve done this countless times myself. The faster, though, that you realize you cannot help everyone the better and more worthwhile your efforts will become. Instead of trying to help a million people and barely scratch the surface, you can help one person and potentially save their life. Another point I want to make here is that many times people don’t need that much from you to feel like they are saved. It may shock you how people need the simplest things to keep going. One of my good friends in high school was dealing with some depression and suicidal thoughts. Everyday during our lunch period we would go to the library and talk. I’d ask him how things are going, how’s the family, how are classes? I mostly listened while he talked about what was going on and I voiced my support of him. Every now and then I’d give a small piece of advice. On his bad days, I would often say to him, “just find one thing each day to look forward to. If you’re having your favorite dinner that night look forward to that and hold onto it. If you are going to the movies with friends, keep that in mind and let that thing carry you through the day.” Truthfully, I didn’t feel like I was doing that much. He was one of my best friends and I just assumed that this is what friends did for each other. It wasn’t until later, maybe the end of the school year, when he came up to me and said how much he appreciated me taking time to talk to him. He said that I had saved his life.

So….when we want to make a positive difference in life, take the time to look around you and see what you can do right there. People around you need help EVERY SINGLE DAY. EVERY SINGLE DAY people around you are struggling with some demons and burdens that we can only imagine. We hide it inside because we feel it is our problem, a problem that we alone must face, and one that should not burden anyone else. When you walk past people today, give them a smile. When you see a friend, tell them that you love them. Those words could, quite literally, save their life.


-Andrew Cooney


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