I wrote this essay many years ago with the hope of it being included with the 1000s of other essays on the This I Believe Website (http://thisibelieve.org/). Darn, that never happened. So I figured I could share my Belief in the Power of One here as a blog post. It just seems like today is the right day. With the far-reaching impacts that an individual (any individual) is able to wield across the globe—both good and bad—it seems the Power of One is more real now than even 10 years, or 5 years or 1 year ago. At a time many people are feeling they cannot make a difference, it may be the exact moment in history when each of us has a greater power than ever before. During this Age of Accelerations, as Thomas L. Friedman points out in his excellent book “Thank you for Being Late”, the triple whammy of "positive" accelerations in human technology and communications, and negative accelerations in our natural world, we each may have power like never before. This power is of course both good and bad—your choice. We can and do create change every day whether among our family and friends, or with people living in villages, or animals living in a forest, on the other side of the world. Maybe if we each took more seriously how our one thought, word, or action can and does affect change, we would try a little harder to make each of these “ones” more gentle to other living beings on the planet.
I Believe in the Power of One
I believe that one smile, or one hatred, can change a person’s destiny. I have held this belief from a time before my memories began. A time when both hatreds and smiles were present in my new life, surviving in a household soon to be crushed by an impending divorce. But this is not a story about childhood or divorce or even my life, although each has a role in the telling. This is a belief, the strongest belief I hold; a belief in the power of one.
The power held by the number one is all pervasive and yet so under-rated. We continually let that one person, one event, or one thing go; allowing time to wash it away, not realizing that there is no greater power than that one. Now in the second half of my life, I often reflect and revisit my ones: that one word, one goodbye, one sunrise, one phone call, one mistake, one forgiveness, one resentment, one loss, one silence or that one kiss. Each of these is ALL it took to exert a power that changed time.
That one smile from the coolest kid in the neighborhood directed my way that hot and humid summer day when the bullies were relentlessly teasing me as my father moved out. Forty some years later I still see that smile as if it were yesterday. A smile that brings peace to me in a world that often appears to be going mad. That one hatred projected from a fellow passenger to a young Muslin woman as we waited to board the plane home to New York City just after 9/11. Today, I can sense and almost touch that hatred, helping to remind me of why the world may in fact spiral into complete madness.
I am but one person as you are but one person, moving through our hours, days and years, experiencing little and big events, adding up to make one life. Each of these events, from yelling at the person next to you in traffic or smiling at your son or finding THE solution to climate change, has a power driving the very fabric of existence. I know without a doubt that my life, that one embrace or one I’m sorry, is the energy of the world, exerting a power beyond comprehension. This is my ONE belief.
Friedman, T.L. 2016. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 486 Pp.