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The Power of One

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We are often told that one person can change the world.  One vote can change an election.  One dollar a day can save a person’s life.  The One Campaign (www.one.org), an advocacy organization dedicated to eradicating extreme poverty and preventable disease, was created around this concept.  One voice alone in the fight against poverty is a whisper.  A collective of two million single voices is a roar.

 

These calls to action do not always produce the desired results.  How many people do you know actually pick up the phone to donate $1 per month to save a starving child in Africa?  Actually believe their one vote can make a difference?  Or believe that their single vote won’t make a difference at all?  My answers to those questions:  1) none, 2) very few, 3) a lot.

 

It is easy to feel like a speck of dust among billions of specks of dust—to despair that we alone can never make a significant difference in the world.  I am guilty of occasionally falling into that pit of despair, and am sure that many would agree it is a pit from which it can be difficult to climb out.

 

One day I received an email from a friend with a story called The Daffodil Principle, a story appearing in Jaroldeen Edwards’ book Celebration!.  It reminded me that one voice, one vote–and in this case one flower–can have a huge and transformative impact on people’s lives.  I hope the story has a similar impact on your lives as well.

 

The Daffodil Principle

 

[Due to its length, I have shortened this story.  The back story is that daughter Carolyn had repeatedly asked her mother to visit her so they could take a drive together to see the “daffodils.”  I pick it up with mother and daughter and grandchildren driving out to see them.]

  

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read, “Daffodil Garden.”  

 

We got out of the car, each took a child’s hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, as we turned a corner, I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight. daffodil-garden-and-house

 

It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and its surrounding slopes. There were five acres of flowers.  “Who did this?” I asked Carolyn. 

 

“Just one woman,” Carolyn answered. “She lives on the property. That’s her home.” Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house, small and modestly sitting in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house.

 

On the patio, we saw a poster. “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking,” was the headline.

 

The first answer was a simple one. “50,000 bulbs,” it read.

 

The second answer was, “One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain.”

 

The third answer was, “Began in 1958.”

 

For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop. Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived.

 

One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time–often just one baby-step at time–and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.  When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

 

“It makes me sad in a way,” I admitted to Carolyn. “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it ‘one bulb at a time’ through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!”

 

My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. “Start tomorrow,” she said.

 

The woman who planted the Daffodil Garden did not save the starving children in Africa.  She did not cast the deciding vote in an election.  She did, however, change the world in her own way.  And that is all that counts. 

 

How will you change the world?  When will you start?

 

Note: The garden does exist and is located below Running Springs, California, in the San Bernardino Mountains.  Peak bloom time is early March through early April.