Put a Dent in the Universe
So said Steve Jobs. This was his way of saying “Make a difference in the world.” He did. With his development of the Apple collection of communication/computing devices, Jobs put a sizable dent in the universe; in fact, he changed the world. I don’t know how soon he realized that, but there is no doubt now that Steve Jobs was a Twentieth/Twenty-First Century change agent.
Most people admire Steve Jobs and others like him who have made a significant contribution to our world. We, too, would like to make a difference but we assume we cannot. We’re not smart enough or bold enough or rich enough or influential enough . . . and on we could go. We just don’t believe we can make a difference.
I am here to tell you “You really can make a difference!” No matter who you are or what you do or where you come from or what limitations you have—you can make a difference. Over the years as I have talked to people in thousands of churches about serving people in need, I have heard people voice doubts that they can make any difference in all the pain in our world. So I want to address this doubt in this blog.
The power of one
We underestimate the power of one. One vote can change the course of history. In 1800 Thomas Jefferson was elected to be President by one vote in the House of Representatives after a tie in the Electoral College. One soldier can change the outcome of a major battle. In the spring of 1945 Private Desmond Doss single-handedly rescued 75 soldiers in the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa. One teacher can impact the world. We would not know about Helen Keller without Ann Sullivan.
If you Google “one person making a difference,” you will see a ton of quotes to that effect. I share a handful here. Renown sociologist Margaret Mead said: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Everybody can be great . . . because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.”
Consider this bit of verse by Edwin Osgood Grover:
“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 something I can do.”
You are one person—not only one person. You are one person who can do something. And it may be that if you entrust to God who has demonstrated over and over again the power of one person the something you can do, He will use you to change the world.
One person who changed the world
I have noticed over the years that momentous events in history sometimes are attributable to individuals who were not famous or powerful and often they are hardly known. Such a person was Claudette Colvin whose story is told in my new book—Compassionaries: Unleash the Power of Serving.
Colvin is one of many unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. She made an undeniable (but often unrecognized) impact on history at the age of 15 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white woman during segregation. Colvin’s act of nonviolent resistance provided the inspiration for the more famous incident involving Rosa Parks, which occurred nine months later.
Colvin grew up in Montgomery, Alabama during the height of segregation. One day in March of 1955, she was on a public bus returning from school when the driver demanded that Colvin and her friends move to the back of the bus to make room for a white woman. Colvin’s friends reluctantly moved, but she stayed put. Colvin took bold action and was publicly breaking the law and in the process changed the world. One person. One unknown, underage person. A nobody at the time.
Make your dent in the universe
The question is not whether one person can make a difference but how many of us will ignore conventional thinking and do it. I understand why anyone wonders if he/she can make a difference in a world so rife with pain and conflict, but it bothers me that anyone would go on to say “So, why try?” Being one person in a great big world didn’t stop Steve Jobs from making his “dent” in the universe . . . and it shouldn’t stop us either.
How do you respond when a person asks, “Can one person really make a difference?” Have you seen examples of one person being a change agent in their world whether or not they realized it?