The Power of One

Last weekend, Deb, Tara and I were part of a volunteer effort to clean up some lanes in Hamilton. Our lane wasn’t originally on the list, but it got added when Deb decided to volunteer.

Our job was to set up a table and the organizers would bring some supplies. We would organize the volunteers and get to work picking up garbage, recycling, and compostable things. Also, being careful in case we found needles and other drug paraphernalia. We wanted to get half of the lane cleared up because the other half was already taken care of by some diligent neighbors.

It was supposed to go from 9am to 1pm. The organizer warned us that when he knocked on the doors of the people on both streets, he didn’t get a lot of people showing interest.

When it became apparent that no other volunteers were showing up, the three of us got to work, starting at the entrance of the lane from the other street. After an hour, it seemed like we wouldn’t get a quarter of the lane done by 1pm. I tried to focus on the little bit of ground I was looking at because it was too daunting to look down the length of the lane.

It was raining. There were puddles and mud. It was chilly. And so much junk and garbage. We were wet. 1pm seemed like 11pm! Can’t we just stop, I thought?

Suddenly a lady with an Irish accent came out in her housecoat and slippers. She wanted to help but she had a commitment that she couldn’t get out of. She regularly clears up some of the areas around her part of the street and thought it was a great idea. She asked if she could take some of the supplies for her efforts. Before she disappeared, she said she was going to call her friend Lorie and tell her to come.

To our surprise, Lorie showed up about 15 minutes later.

It’s hard to believe, but one extra person made a big difference. The rest of the work seemed easier. We got further than I thought we would. Before we knew it, we were at the halfway point and our work was done.

It made me think of the impact one person can have. I don’t think Lorie was aware of how her sudden appearance energized us. Most of us think we don’t have an impact and maybe we’re not even aware of the impact that we’re having.

One person can change the world.  Or at least help galvanize people to finish a task.

Who knows who you might be helping just by showing up?

 

© 2019 Peter Gruner

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