Making a difference

Monday, September 12th, 2011

We have often heard phrases like, “make a difference” or even “make an impact” .  At times, I wonder how common individuals like me can really make an impact. Participating in some local service programs can always be possible but making a lasting impression, redefining some social dynamics is a different ball game altogether. Does it even make sense to say that we could work towards such gigantic goals?

The other day I was reading an article on significant moments in life. These are instances which could change lives, not only at a personal level but even for communities and nations as a whole. Take the example of a person who was thrown out from a train in South Africa because he was colored and had had the audacity to enter a compartment reserved for whites only. Till that moment, he was just a common person; he was hurled on to the platform, and he was still the same. But then something dawned upon him, and he made an instant resolution. That was the moment of significant change. That moment, so calm and unnoticed otherwise in history, sowed the seeds of freedom of the world’s most populated democracy, India. That was the moment Mahatma Gandhi was born, he was no more just Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

I have also been extremely impressed with Craig Kelburger, who in his 8th standard redefined what a child could do. He came across a newspaper, maybe as a wrapper, which carried the news of a young boy who had been sold as a child laborer in Pakistan. He had served in that capacity for some years and then managed to flee. He had thereafter organized a group of youngsters that raised its voice against such inhuman practices. Only recently, he had been murdered. What could this news mean to a child in Canada? But to Craig, it was enough to set his mind into motion. Standing before his class a few days later, he invited volunteers to join him in his quest to quell the practice of child trafficking and child labor even in Asia. 11 hands went up and a movement was born, that was a defining moment! Rallies with young students, emails in thousands, protest notes and blogs followed in the next few weeks. His home was transformed into a social activism nodal centre. His parents asked him to withdraw from this level of engagement but his conscience did not permit, and ultimately even they relented.  Within months, he was leading a crusade against the arrest of some activist in India who was fighting against this malaise. He had gathered thousands of letters in support of his cause, packed them in a shoe box and dispatched them to Canada’s parliamentarians asking for a representation to Indian government. It had made a difference, and the activist was released a few days later. In his early teens he was touring South Asia with a mission. This same child, Craig, then traded his job in the House of Commons to study and work in the slums in Thailand. Today, he leads a campaign to make life meaningful and has earned almost every international award in the social field. His website www.metowe.org is worth visiting. I have listed some simple but great ideas from Craig (and altered them to suit lions) for making an impact at our individual front to support the millennium goals of UN. They are so easy to implement and, yet if we join collectively, they can form great ideas even for our lions clubs.

Sometimes, it is so much of a challenge to identify individuals who can be termed as role models. I read somewhere, “Don’t be concerned about what you leave for your children, rather be more concerned about what you leave in your children.” Many years ago, I had the opportunity of going back and teaching in my school as a temporary replacement for a teacher on leave for 3 weeks. I was a student on vacation, and deemed this to be an honor. (That was also the first time I made an earning).  During one of the sessions, I asked the students in 9th standard to write a paragraph about their idol, someone who was living and from our own country. The results were astonishing; I had not realized what I had attempted to do. A vast majority of students wrote about some cricketers and a few mentioned some cine stars. Believe me, I was standing in the city’s and country’s top ranking school and was learning a great lesson: our generation was bereft of individuals whom we could idolize. That was the era before the awakening of the Indian economy. To me this experience was a great revelation. Neither parents nor perhaps teachers take time to make children aware of some common people who may not have hit the headlines but are wonderful human beings. And, thankfully we don’t have a dearth of them. What about the lion who has donated blood 100 times or another lion who is donating his entire property (worth a million USD or more) for social causes in the sunset years of his life. (Both these lions are from Kolkata.) I also met another lion who has a job that pays him less than INR 10,000 (USD 225) per month, but contributes as a lead donor for cataract surgery camps, around INR 50,000 (USD 1100) every other year. These are our unsung heroes, I hope someday we can recognize them and put them on a pedestal where they really belong. I wish our children could learn about them as role models in life.

Surfing through the YouTube, I came across a video which you may view at Youtube.
 

This is a speech given by a 12 year old girl from Canada to the Heads of States of the world at the most famous environment summit. I think she summed up the agenda for the leaders much better than any diplomat could have done, and explained to them what their roles and expectations from them are. In fact, her words come as a statement.

I believe we can all make a difference, what we need is a will to do so; or perhaps an awakening from inside, a call of the inner self.


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