East Penn Press

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A community of ‘ones’

Thursday, March 29, 2018 by The Press in Opinion

In the aftermath of tragic events, I tend to feel very helpless and small. Even though my every day is jam-packed with activities that serve to improve the quality of life for others, I feel as if I somehow failed. It sounds a bit ridiculous because I could never directly make a difference for every single person out there, especially those who live far away and have no connection to me. Yet, I tend to think globally and wonder what I could have done to create a different outcome. Then reality sets in, and I come to terms with the fact that I am indeed only one person, one citizen, one educator, one organizer — and I can only do so much.

Another reality is that we are all a bunch of “ones.” When you put us all together, we become hundreds and thousands of “ones” with a voice that gets exponentially louder. We have seen how change happens when people speak as one unified voice. But at the end of the day, you and I are still only one.

Much research has demonstrated the power of “one.” Interviews with people who faced tremendous odds and overcame adversity often point to that one person who made a difference. One teacher, parent, coach, friend or grandparent helped them to see themselves from a different angle, encouraged them to do better or simply treated them with dignity. You, and I, just might be that one person to someone.

We often underestimate the power of a “thank you” or a smile, but such a modest action might be all that someone needs to make or break his or her day. For those who are emotionally fragile or those who live with toxic stress, a random act of kindness could make the difference between his or her choice to act out or seek help.

Consider the amount of relief you can bring to someone by allowing him or her to pass you on the road or take the next turn at the intersection, even if you did have the right-of-way. A smile, a nod of understanding to a stressed parent or a compliment to a child who may have experienced bullying is very powerful. But we are often too preoccupied to slow down and make the effort.

The Lehigh Valley is made up of over 800,000 “ones,” and, collectively, we can make a difference. We need to be more aware of the people around us and thank them, recognize them and show compassion. If nothing else, a smile will do.

People often ask me how I can run and not listen to music. It is because my run time is my prayer and meditation time, the only time I can really enjoy peace and quiet. I have two things I ask for each and every day: that one person who is considering an act of violence against him/herself or someone else be softened by another person’s kindness and that I might be that one person to someone who needs to feel affirmed.

It only takes “one.”

Editor’s note: Denise Continenza is the family and consumer sciences educator with Penn State Extension, Lehigh and Northampton counties.