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Smiling volunteer man taking notes holding clipboard in a large warehouse

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead [Tweet this] | [Share on Facebook]

Frequently we don’t take action because we’re not sure the effort will actually matter.

I was recently reminded of our skeptical nature, but also the truth that all good work, done in love, matters profoundly. Let me explain.

I had just finished sharing a message to business owners and their spouses about how one word, one action and one person can profoundly influence the lives of others. After my presentation, the event organizer asked the group to follow her to the location for the next activity.

We all walked from the beautiful auditorium, down a long hallway, through a series of double doors and into a massive loading area. Once there, a lady on a bullhorn shared that in our own community and around the world, the plight of poverty means many families are unable to eat. She explained that we were going to work together to create boxed meals to feed hungry families.

She gave some instructions and assigned jobs. With pallets of canned goods, dry food and water bottles stacked high, we got to work.

The room was hot. The work was tedious and tiring, and yet the room was energized with the tasks at hand.

Two hours later, as the pallets sat emptied, boxes filled and mission accomplished, we moved the boxes from the floor and onto waiting trucks for delivery.

I asked a gentleman if he was enjoying the workout, and he responded, “Yeah, man. It certainly feels good to help out.”

He then paused, looked at the truck full of boxes, then back at me, and sullenly added, “But, let’s be honest: we’re putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. I am not sure it really matters.”

The bullhorn cracked over his final words. We turned away from the truck and back to the leader.

She thanked us for our efforts and added that since 1998 more than 250 million meals had been served in this manner. These meals have been shipped to all 50 states and 73 countries. She shared the hopelessness that accompanies being hungry and the gift that food is, nourishing both the body and the soul.

Finally, she added, “And today, through your efforts, your work, your generosity, 20,000 additional meals were just packed and loaded onto this truck. So 20,000 people will receive that nourishment and hope. Thank you for it!”

As the room erupted in applause, I looked at the gentleman next to me again and smiled, saying, “Well, sounds like it will matter to the 20,000 people eating them.”

My friends, in a marketplace that trades on negativity, in communities mired in cynicism, and with a media focused on fear, it’s time to realize that our words can lift up or put down; our actions can restore or tear down, and our lives can be evidence of further reasons for despair or shining examples that the best is yet to come.

The time is now to pack the meals, load the truck, and trust that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. For indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

Friend, can you recall one word or action that someone said to you or did for you that made a big impact on you? If so, please share in the comments as further testament to the truth that one word, action, person, can indeed change the world.

9 replies on “Making It Matter”

My inspirational word comes from my son Luca, who is 4 years old and Autistic. He loves letters and words, and is a little obsessed with reading them and writing them. However, he began to notice that on glass windows and doors, words were written in reverse when you looked at it from the other side. His little four-year-old mind was bothered by this for a month or so. After many many conversations about it, I found something amazing in our back yard. I had painted our garden boxes with chalk paint so Luca could write his words and letters on them. I noticed on one of the boxes, he had written the word LOVE in reverse. I said to him ‘that’s wrong buddy, let’s erase it and write it again’. He quickly informed me ‘its not wrong mama. I wrote it that way so the plants could read it from the inside!’

My whole world shied in that moment. His brain amazes me! And I love that concept. We do so much for the outside world’s approval, when all we really need to do is continue to reflect LOVE inward. This idea has sparked a ton of ideas for ways I can help shift perspective, and for that I am forever grateful!

Usually I love your emails, but I have to admit I was disappointed to see you quoting Margaret Mead. She was a very controversial person and I know even secular psychologists who would say she did more harm then good with her ideas on sexual revolution and promoting experimentation among the youth. Her studies of other cultures was very subjective and it has been argued she misinterpreted behaviors.

Claire, thank you so much for following my work and for the encouragement. Thank you, too, for the information on Margaret Mead. To be honest, I’d never heard of her or the work she did. I was looking for a quote on a specific subject, came across the one I used, and shared it. Thank you for reminding me that just as important as the words you quote are the people who spoke them. I’ll take it to heart.

John, as always you are not only inspiring but thought provoking as well. I was blessed early in my career by a woman who was an amazing mentor to me through my first 7 years in administrative support. She saw in me experiences and skills I did not see and taught me to never say no to someone who is willing to pay for and pay you to receive additional education as education is never wasted and always goes with you. She taught me to look deeper and to see things in many lights and not just within myself but within others as well. As a result, the growth I have seen both professionally as well as personally has been amazing (to me anyway!). Throughout my career I have tried to pass on this wisdom and help others to see their own capabilities more clearly. Thank you John for helping me to remember this wonderful woman today. And thank you Stephanie!

Hi John, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 I had to take very expensive medicine. I have always had my nails done on a regular basis for the last 25 years. Knowing it was going to put a financial crunch on me, my nail person (and now a very close friend) said you are not paying as long as you are on that medicine! I argued because I didn’t want a “hand out”. But of course she won. She told me she WANTED to bring a bit of joy to me and have me feel good about myself. This wonderful lady “Laurie” is not rich monitarily but is very wealthy in life. I told her she needs the money too. But she said “God always finds a way to take care of things. I just put it I. God’s hands.” What she did for me may not sound like a big deal to some. But it was a very BIG deal to me and she knew it. I am blessed to have her in my life.

What a beautiful story – thanks for sharing it with us, Norma (Cub’s fan or not!). Great example of how one person truly can change the world. J

John- thank you for your continued inspiration. There are great people like that lady who is doing amazing work to help the ones in need. My daughter, where I saw you first in June during her graduation, invest half of every Saturday, to work at a place where they offer free medical clinic. They get sick, old and young of all color and background. They get great satisfaction in seeing them get back healthy.

Vahaaj, thank you for raising such a beautiful daughter – giving of her talents each week so that others might heal. What a gift. Thanks for ALL you do. J

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.