[This was originally a speech given at training seminar. I left it as it was to give the most organic experience.]
I have always struggled with the idea of one. I was the kid who could never read one page, only watch one more hour or just eat one cookie. One just never seemed like enough, it was the easy way out. When I got older I began to think about how I could just focus on one person or one problem when their are so many people and so many problems that needed attention as well. When I decided to take a bridge year I was defiantly that kid flying up high on the ideals that she was gonna change world and then I got here and I landed flat on my ass where I deserved to be for thinking that Ecuador needed anything from me. I mean lets look at the equation it seems a little unbalanced when you have the 17 year old on one side and in the middle you got your greater than symbol and on the less than side I had put a whole country of people with years of history and culture I still don’t fully understand.
Well when you get bruised on the ass because you fell from the clouds I can tell its not something you forget quickly. I’m mean you can’t even sit down without being reminded that your manner of thinking is what put you so far away from what you preached you were trying to change that the clouds ran out and you fell like Ircus who got to close to sun. I was scared of ever trying to change anything again because I saw where it would lead. And if I couldn’t change everything why get bruised for nothing? And then I came across this poem:
A man goes out on the beach and see that it is covered with Starfish that have been washed up with the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water.
“what are you doing, son?” The man asked. “ You see how many starfish there are? You’ll never make a difference.”
The boy paused thoughtfully and picked up another Starfish and threw it into the ocean.
“It sure made a difference to that one,” he said.
It reminded me that there is a big difference between changing and helping. One says that there is something wrong that must be fixed and the other says their are situations that can be bettered when one person is doing something just because they know it will aid a group that doesn’t have the ability to aid themselves.
And the funny thing about helping is that one quickly becomes two. That little boy didn’t just help the starfish, he helped the man see that helping doesn’t only come in 100% increments. Just being yourself and picking up the starfish even when the world says it won’t matter makes the biggest difference.
Now, we only have less than 2 months here in Ecuador and it might feel like you have changed nothing. Close your eyes and think back to one time with your family, internship, or random community member when you gave a metaphorical or literal helping hand. I can promise you that moment was like throwing one of the starfish back into the ocean. Just by helping where you saw the ability you have created an effect so much bigger than you might have known because that action was the starfish but the way the person thinks about it is like the man, it changes two.
And sure the tide might wash up five more tomorrow but that one starfish, or that one person will always remember what you did and will not take that extra step towards the shore and more starfish will catch on. Nothing ever changed until the first person said no in a sea of yes or when a little boy forgot about that he couldn’t change everything and focused on the power of one.
And when we are home and people doubt our experiences because we didn’t clear the shore remember that there is a clear spot of sand where your starfish used to be and quickly enough one spot can become a million. So you can look back at that person and say it doesn’t matter because I sure made a difference to one.