[blockquote text=’This is a guest post by Stephanie LeBlanc. Stephanie is the practice administrator at TotalCare Hulen in Fort Worth, Texas. She also holds other leadership positions including president of her accounting firm, as well as Project Connect Texas, a non-profit organization she founded to serve the Dallas/Fort Worth community.
– Wes Saade, M.D.’ text_color=’#ffffff’ width=’95’ line_height=’undefined’ background_color=’#aaaaaa’ border_color=’#dba400′ show_quote_icon=’no’ quote_icon_color=’#dba400′]
Over the years I have created a list of principles that I try to live my life by. When I started that list, it began with this statement:
I am but one, but I am one who will make a difference.
I have made this principle number one in my life and in my heart, because without this one rule, the rest have much less meaning.
How Can I Make a Difference?
Without knowing that I can make a difference, I would likely limit my dreams and my desire to do so. When I started my list, I had no idea what kind of impact I wanted to make, only that I would not let the fear of being only one person hold me back. Instead, I committed myself, my actions, and my life principles to?making a difference.
Many years later, I still am not completely sure what that?will be, but I get one step closer each day. I believe this statement gives me guidance, and often times reminds me that every action, decision, and even failure should bring me closer to living out my ultimate purpose of making a difference.
Two Hours to Make a Difference
After volunteering at the North Texas Food Bank in April 2013, I was amazed how easy it was to help someone else. I had spent two hours walking down a line and putting food into bags, all the while chit chatting and meeting new people. Two hours passed within what felt like minutes. And as the event drew to a close, I felt good about lending a hand, though I did not really feel as though I had done that much.
As I stood there talking to some newfound friends, the lead volunteer for the organization gathered my small group together and told us based on the calculations of the bags of food we prepared, we created 8,800 meals. I stood there, slightly in disbelief that it was possible, because it was so easy and so much fun, and only took two hours of my life.
In that moment, I could not believe how little was required of me to help so many others. We had created 8,800 meals for small children to take home on Friday afternoon so that they would have food to eat before returning to school on Monday morning. Even though I did not feel like I had done much, I was almost positive that providing thousands of children meals, who would otherwise not have food for the weekend, would be considered making quite a difference.
This volunteer experience changed my life and over the next month it consumed my thoughts. Why do we think helping people has to be hard? Why do we think that it is going to cost us money? And most of all, why in the world do people associate volunteer work with court mandated community service? Why is it considered a punishment to give back to our community?
Connecting Others to Make a Difference
I spent the next month trying to answer these questions, and more importantly try to figure out how to change these crazy misconceptions. It only took volunteering for two hours for me to open my eyes and realize that it is not hard, that it does not have to take a huge commitment of time or money, or a court order to help out in our community.
I knew that if I could convince others to join me at the food bank, or another short event, that maybe I could affect?the way they felt about volunteer work. If I could change the minds of the people around me, I could ask them to bring their friends and family to an event and change their minds as well. If we could continue to bring new people to every event, then we could really make a difference in our community.
In May of 2013, I started Project Connect Texas to initiate this process and I started reaching out to everyone I had ever come in contact with. I convinced a small group of these people to trust me: that the work would be fun and rewarding, and best of all, it would be easy to make a difference. Over the last year, we were able to bring together forty volunteers who put in a total of 373 combined volunteer hours. We participated in disaster relief in Oklahoma, fed families with very sick children, prepared thousands of meals for school kids, and put smiles on the faces of children who had been admitted to the hospital by providing handmade pillowcases.
The number of our volunteers grows slowly, simply because of how hard it is to convince people that it really is easy and worthwhile for them to give up a couple of hours to help others. Most of the people we convince to join us truly do have a great time and sign up to join us at our future events. The best news is, they convince others to come with them and we continue to positively?affect?our community, while altering?how people think about volunteer work in general.
Myth: ?I can?t make a significant difference.?
I started Project Connect Texas knowing that I was only one person, and I was hoping to change the mindset of many. It would have been easier to say, ?I am but one, I can?t make a difference.?? By telling ourselves this myth, it sounds like the perfect excuse not to get involved. It doesn?t sound like we do not care; it doesn?t make us feel bad about our decision, because after all, we?ve convinced ourselves, there isn?t anything I can do. Or, it would take an army to make a difference. We reason, I shouldn?t waste my time on something that I have no control over. Most of us have said these exact words to ourselves or to others when we know someone needs to?do something, but we do not want to take on the responsibility or inconvenience of making it our own.
As one person, you cannot tackle everything, but never let the thought that you are only one person discourage you or give you an excuse for not getting involved in something that speaks to you. Do not be afraid to be the leader that makes a difference in the world. ?You do not have to do it alone. It may take an army, but every army needs a leader, and every army must be gathered. Commit to starting your army and making the difference you know needs to be made.
Truth: ?I am but one, but I am one who will make a difference.?
People throughout history have committed themselves to making an impact?without letting the fact that they were only one person discourage them. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most well-known Civil Rights leaders in American history. His ideas for equality and ending segregation were not his alone. Many people knew a change was needed. Countless people had to have thought, ?Something needs to be done, but I can?t make a difference. I am but one.? Dr. King?s commitment made one of the greatest impacts on American history. His mission to make a difference did take an army. It took thousands of people to stand behind him and commit to the cause?he was so compelled to fight for. Without his dedication, that army of supporters may not have ever been rallied or prepared to fight the battle.
Most of our commitments to making a difference will not be as difficult as the Civil Rights movement, but it does support that if one person can lead an effort to change our nation, none of us can use the excuse, ?I am but one.?
Practice Administrator, TotalCare
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