just one

While walking on the beach one day
I saw starfish by the score
And everywhere I looked it seemed
I saw a thousand more
And what to my surprise appeared
A boy of nine or ten
Stooping down to pick them up
And throw them back again
I smiled at his exuberance
And laughed at his frustration
"One starfish won't make a difference son"
"You can't change this situation"
Then leaning down to grab one more
And looking right at me
He said "I can make a difference for this one sir"
And he tossed it back to sea.
So I went and gathered all my friends
My brothers and my cousins
And we joined in with that little lad
To save starfish by the dozens
There are many to be rescued
Many "starfish" on life's shore
And you can make a difference too
By saving just one more.

- The Starfish Poem – 

I’ve heard it so many times, and you’ve probably at least heard the premise of it before. But I was reminded of it again tonight, and the truth within it.

Tonight, while eating at a tiny Uyghur restaurant with a few of the volunteers, we started talking about some deep, philosophical ideas (we do this very regularly).  We were musing and puzzling over the fact that in our country, people would generally rather watch shows about celebrities, fashion, etc. than see real problems in the world like hunger, trafficking, or poverty. The obvious answer was that it isn’t generally enjoyable to watch the latter option. It diminishes our happiness. But then we continued to ask: why is that? Michelle considered that when observing problems as huge as child soldiers or malnourishment, we feel helpless. We can’t even begin processing how to change the problem. We don’t like feeling inadequate, and we don’t know what to do. So we change the channel.
However, when we see one person, one story we can change, we are suddenly so much more willing to step in, and even give more! That’s why sponsorship is such a wonderful option, and effective in it’s goal. I’m much more willing to pay $30 a month to help D’jenebou in Mali than I would be to give $30 a month to just “help underprivileged African children.”

Being here at Dandelion school has raised my awareness for this kind of issue. One example was just this evening, and happens to be the situation that caused our discussion to begin with. The overarching problem: even in a rising, mostly-developed, large city like Beijing, children are malnourished. They eat mostly rice, and get very little protein and calcium. Even at the school, these kids aren’t getting what they should, though probably eating better than at home. With just some extra support from extra donations, these students could be getting so much more, benefitting their health now and long-term. 

Hearing this makes you understand the problem a bit. And maybe makes you want to do something. Or maybe makes you a bit bored. But what about this: 

This afternoon, my little buddy Oscar was playing outside. He loves basketball, and even though he’s only less than five feet tall, he dreams of being a pro. But today, a classmate “bumped into him.” It landed him in the hospital with a fractured/broken arm or shoulder. He’ll be at home for weeks, and the teacher has said he won’t be back in time for finals. His grades will drop, and his malnourishment that has given him such fragile bones will hardly contribute to his recovery. 

The problem, when put in general terms, seems too large to really affect. But when we look at it one story at a time, we realize just how important it is that we do something. Anything

As I was pondering all this, I grabbed a notebook that had been sitting in Rachel’s desk ever since she left. Inside, I found one thing she had written; a quote that stunned me in its profundity:
“I want to see the world changed more than I want to be a world changer.” 

Between tonight’s thoughts and Rachel’s words, I’ve been thinking more and more about what a difference we could make if we forgot about ourselves and focused on the change we hope to see. And that change comes one person at a time. 

Take a step today to change the world. Change someone’s life, but not for the recognition or the “feel-good” of it. Find somewhere to give, to go, to show love. 

You can give directly to Dandelion School, and even specify what you would like the money to go toward. Or go find a cause that God is putting on your heart. Most of all, please remember how much of an impact you can make when we start seeing the world as full of faces and stories that need love through action. “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”


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