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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Making Ripples

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. -- Mother Teresa

Isn't this a great quote from Mother Teresa? It is so true. Few of us as individuals can change the world, but we can create ripples. And those ripples can create great tidal waves. Think about the ripples created by Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Rachel Carson, Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Their actions and words resulted in profound changes in the world.

Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa devoted her life to caring for the "poorest of the poor." This order, active in 133 countries, runs hospices and homes for people with HIV and AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. The sisters run soup kitchens, children's and family counseling programs, orphanages and schools. She brought attention to the plight of people shunned by others due to extreme poverty and illness.

Rosa Parks, by her refusal to yield her seat in the 'colored' section of a bus to a white man after the 'white' section became full, sparked a movement for equality and civil rights. She became an international symbol of resistance to racial segregation. Her simple act of defiance sparked a year-long boycott of the Montgomery, Ala., transit company. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses were unconstitutional. Although social mores don't change over night, Parks's quiet defiance lit a spark in the civil rights movement.

Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring helped launch the U.S. environmental movement by documenting the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment, on birds in particular. An investigation ordered by President John Kennedy that confirmed Carson's allegations resulted in strengthened regulation of chemical pesticides and the banning of the pesticide DDT.

Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi used non-violent civil disobedience to achieve  India's independence from the British. His actions led to the now widespread use of non-violent marches, protests and sit-ins when citizens feel compelled to protest against laws they consider to be unfair. Decades later, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., employed similar tactics to advance the cause of civil rights.

What can we learn from these people from different places, countries and backgrounds? The message I get is that we never know when something we do may light a spark that creates change, or at the least, impacts another individual. That change most likely won't be immediate or dramatic, but the saying that 'great oaks from little acorns grow' is true of social change as well.

Each of us, no matter our status, has the potential to make ripples. We don't necessarily have to 'rock the boat', but each of us can make some ripples during our lifetime.