This I Believe

Donald - Rochester, New York
Entered on August 16, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: community
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“This I believe” Essay

The future of our communities, our environment, and our world is not in the hand of others. Each of us has the ability to make life better in our corner of the globe. William Pryor Letchworth, an early 20th century businessman, social reformer and conservationist wrote in his rules of conduct this admonition “Aim to do all possible good in the world….”

We occasionally read and marvel at news stories of youth or children who start programs for the poor, or hand out coats, food or blankets to the homeless. We applaud reports of ordinary people who do extraordinary acts of service. We are amazed. We are impressed. And we ignore that we have the same potential for accomplishing similar results around issues and needs that matter to us.

In the 1980’s a group of professionals talked and talked about the problem of local children going to school hungry. We had the paralysis of analysis; pondering, despairing, and ranting about how “they” should do something. Finally I said “Why don’t we start a food pantry?” We went on to begin and sustain an all volunteer feeding program in that neighborhood. Twenty years later the program has a large base of community support, is one of the largest programs in the city feeding hundreds of families in need.

Later some seniors were talking about the difficulty of finding safe, affordable housing. I heard about a HUD program of building subsidized apartments for the handicapped and elderly. Approaching various community groups, I suggested we could apply for one. Community support and that of my church sustained a yearly application – each garnering more support from the community – for 5 years. The funds were granted and a 32 unit facility has been home to elderly and handicapped persons. Other groups were encouraged by our success to build similar facilities in that neighborhood

Making positive changes is not a special ability given to a unique minority. Thousands of people across the United States are quietly making a difference. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr , and Mother Theresa each started out with a concern and a commitment to try to make their corner of the world a better place. That we regard them as unique speaks to a choice that the majority make. The choice to believe we cannot make a difference; that “they” whomever we define as they – are the people that have the skills, the time and the ability affect change. The usual choice is to not do what we can do because we do not think it will matter.

But we can make another choice. Each individual can choose to be part of the solution; choose to use their time & energy resources to improve our corner of the community.

Not every choice leads to success! But not to try leads to nothing at all. Even failure provides a foundation for others to build on.

The ability to make a difference lies within each of us; we only have to believe it and do it. “Choose to do all possible good in the world.” And together small corner by small corner we WILL change the world. This I believe!