How to Make a Difference: ONE Person at a Time

Category: Weekly Columns

I often proselytize about how we can each make a difference. Every Sunday on my A Dad’s Point-of-View Facebook Page, I ask as part of what I call #FaithSunday, “What are YOU doing to Repair the World?” It’s said that we can repair the world, one person at a time. I believe that to my core. Trying to solve the big problems in the world can be simply overwhelming, but everyone can touch a single human being. Everyone can make a difference.

In my life, I chose to go the Big Brother route and mentored several young kids as well as I’m currently mentoring a young man with a genetic illness that produces symptoms similar to Autism. On a simpler scale, I try with my writing and Social Media outreach to touch people, help them via my thoughts, and on occasion via direct interaction.

One such example was when I befriended a girl’s school in Ghana, Africa. You can continue to help these wonderful young girls by sending your used books, toys, and such to:

Pastor Frank Bennin, Alola
Africa Zebras
Box 719
Agona Swedru GHANA

So many books were donated that they created this club!

Note: the most economical way to send a box of books to Africa is by USPS flat rate boxes. It is still slightly costly, but you will be serving a greater good by doing it.

I’ve written several stories about them and continue to stay in touch with Pastor Bennin, who runs the school. I’ve also made “virtual” friends with young people all over the world, including Bee-Jay in South Africa. She reached out to me on Facebook to simply say “Hello” and we became friends. More recently, she reached out to me again and the following dialogue is lifted directly from the chat we had.

I felt our conversation was beneficial to her and to me. Where can you touch someone? Here’s a simple example. Please note the only editing I did was some spelling fixes and deletions due to length:

September 8, 2012

7:50am
Bruce

7:51am
Hi Bee-Jay!

7:52am
Long time. How u doing?

7:53am
Very well…and you?

7:53am
Great Bruce

7:54am
I just sent my 1st-born off to college! He starts classes on Monday!

7:56am
Wow… How’s the feeling? I’m pregnant with my 1st born. Haha

7:56am
Congratulations! How far along are you? Do you know the sex? Tell me more?

7:59am
Unfortunately I’m only 12weeks/3months. So I don’t know the sex, I’m anxious thou. Can’t wait to find out.

8:00am
But, that means you are over the initial worries of a pregnancy! No rush to find out the sex. Is the father in your life?

8:02am
Yes, hez next 2 me napping as we speak. Hez also very happy.

8:02am
Good! If I can offer any advice…be sure to take a day or two off with your man and have fun BEFORE the baby comes…a last hurrah, so to speak!

8:03am
How many kids do u hve?

8:04am
Two boys – 18 and 15 (almost 19 and 16)…wish I’d had a girl, too!

8:08am
2 boys, look on the bright side. The Sallan name will continue. And ul hve grand kids. My bf is 26 and I’m 20. Hoping I’ll be his Mrs soon. LOL

8:09am
No hoping…MAKE it happen! It is UP TO YOU!

8:10am
Yes but hez the one that has to make the proposal

8:12am
Okay, some fatherly advice…a guy will NOT get married – most of the time – unless he is forced to. Right now, he’s sleeping next to you, he’s having sex with you, and he’s getting the joy of your company. WHY should he propose? YOU have to make it CLEAR that that is what you expect, you demand, and you want for your child.

I don’t mean to be angry or mean about it…just give him a time frame. No ring, no more me…

SIMPLE!

YOU are worth it – do not forget that!

And, you can blame your American buddy – me – for it all!

8:17am
LOL true. But in SA (blacks) a child does not get the father’s surname unless they are married and I knw for a fact that he dznt want his child getting a surname that’s not his. Lol its culture. So I’m depending on that ryt nw. LOL

8:18am
Keep me posted, Bee-Jay – and the very best of luck and good wishes all around! I gotta go now!

That afternoon, I went to Barnes ‘N’ Noble to do some work because our Internet had gone down. I sat next to a young girl. On the other side was an older woman.

After a moment, I noticed the young girl was quietly sobbing. I looked at the older woman. She avoided my glance, obviously not wanting to get involved.

I gently asked the young girl what was bothering her. She at first said she didn’t want to talk about her problems to a stranger. I reassured her that speaking to me was okay, that I sort of dealt with issues about kids for a living.

She opened up and told me how her parents were horribly fighting, likely getting a divorce, that her mom was crazy, and her younger brother was freaking out.

Obviously, I could only offer minimal advice and counsel in such a situation, but I was able to calm her down, suggest she speak with her mom’s doctor (as she was concerned about her mother’s health), and reach out to any clergy in her life (which she had) and other adult family members.

We spoke for over an hour. I know I helped calm her down. In fact, she got up immediately after we spoke and went to place a call to someone to get the help she and her parents might need.

These things do make a difference. I thought about the woman that chose to ignore this young girl’s clear need and felt sad – for her, and glad – for me, that I was there.

  • http://myblog.dolphingrouponline.com Steve Vernon

    What a wonderfully refreshing post, Bruce.  I am a true believer in the idea that there are no coincidences in life, that we attract people and situations into our personal world for a reason.  There was definitely a reason beyond the need for internet that took you to Barnes and Noble that afternoon.  I’m sure you thought of the internet issue at home as a frustration at the time, but it was the impetus you needed to be where you were needed, and the rewards were obviously many, both for you and the young girl.  The older woman definitely lost out on that one.  Good for you.  And it’s obvious you didn’t reach out as an act of charity but simply because of who you are as a fellow human being.  We all need to do that more.  This world would be a much better place.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      We sure agree Steve! I’m happy for that.

  • ginavalley

    I am constantly amazed by how simply being aware, friendly,and kind has enabled me to have some great opportunities to help people out and to make new friends.
    So many people would simply ignore the sobbing girl in the book store.  It’s a great gift that you didn’t. They missed out.
    I’ve had my hand bitten many times while reaching out to people, but I’ve had the privilege of helping even more.  Sometimes I’ve even been blessed with being able to help some of the biters!
    We don’t solve the world’s problems one country or even one city at a time.  We solve them one person at a time. 
    Thank you for the reminder!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Those bites are worth the effort and come with the territory Gina! 

      • ginavalley

        Absolutely, Bruce!

  • Jennifer Fischer

    Myself and several other bloggers focused on spreading awareness about the issue of hunger during Hunger Action Month last month and got engaged in various ways to make a difference. Here is my round up of what we achieved. I thought you would appreciate. Thanks for sharing and dedicating yourself to making a difference. http://jennifischer.blogspot.com/2012/09/thank-you-from-moms-fighting-hunger.html

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx for sharing that, Jennifer! I hope others will share their “good works” as well!

  • http://profiles.google.com/arleebird Arlee Bird

    What you are doing is great.  I probably used to do more when I was working.  Now with no income I tend to stay home most of the time.  I probably should check around my neighborhood to see if there are any places I can help.  I do try to assist bloggers on line as much as I can.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Arlee, don’t under-estimate how much YOU have to GIVE and how GREAT it will make you feel!

  • http://twitter.com/NigglyNoo Tarryn

    It’s amazing how relatively easy it can be, as long as you’re open to the people around you. Thanks for sharing a wonderful post!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      YES, it is THAT easy Tarryn! I hope you’ll come to #DadChat tomorrow: http://www.brucesallan.com/2012/10/09/special-moment-rock-songs-dadchat/

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  • http://reallycooldad.com/ Stephen

    I am always amazed how much one person can help another, simply by being open to the possibility. Don’t look away; don’t walk past; don’t judge or assume. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, sometimes there’s not much more we can do but offer comfort. I’ve even made a few friends.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      We agree (in the words of our esteemed VP) “my friend,” though in your case it is meant sincerely!

  • http://twitter.com/BillDraeger Bill Draeger

    I’m sorry but I don’t trust strangers.  While all of your efforts here appear to be noble and deserving, how do you prevent from being conned?

    • http://reallycooldad.com/ Stephen

      Bill, I’d say we aren’t conned because we aren’t reckless in our support. We know that there are some people in the world who are trying to steal or cheat, so we use our wits to stay in control when we make a choice to help. But instead of starting from a position of not trusting anyone we don’t know, we start by not having any opinion at all. A person has to earn both our trust and our distrust.

      Have I been conned? Sure, a little. But generally by a professional, not someone who just needs a little help.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        Bill, see what Stephen wrote ’cause I agree…I’d rather trust the world than fear it, though common sense and some vetting can prevent getting conned most of the time!