Saturday, August 30, 2014

Little Things Can Make A Big Difference

Today, while thinking about a scripture I read, I remembered an experience I had travelling from Lagos to Ibadan (both in Nigeria) in a public transport. I met a lady in the bus that amused me. She really looked like a very “tush” girl- well that was the first impression I had about her. She was actually in the bus before me and was helping herself with a Chicken Republic meal. Shortly after I sat down, a guy came beside the window where she sat, trying to sell her a skirt. “Do I look like a househelp?”, she blurted. “What’s the designer’s label on that?”, she further probed. Of course, she left the guy confused. I did not know whether to laugh or confront her. She had been really mean to the guy. Anyway, that somehow further proved her “tushness” to me.

However, in less than 15 minutes, I changed my mind about her. As soon as we set out on our journey, she started throwing everything imaginable out through the window – the bones of the chicken she was eating, the serviette she used to clean her hands, the plastic bag, the spoon and the drink bottle! I couldn’t take it again. “That’s not right” I finally said. “Why don’t you put everything in that bag? We need to keep our nation clean” I continued. Well, she didn’t agree with me! According to her, “This is Nigeria. The Roads are already dirty anyway. Whether I throw that out or not, the place is already a mess”. What an interesting submission.

Have you heard people around you say that? I have heard all sorts – “If you don’t take that bribe, someone else will. The nation is corrupt”. “Why are you bothering yourself obeying the traffic lights? No one else does!” “You cannot be a successful business man in Nigeria without bribing your way through”. I am sure you can list a dozen more.

What do you do when the “little” you are doing in your corner doesn’t seem to make sense? What do you do when right seems wrong? What do you do when you are being abused by other road users because you are trying to obey traffic rules? What do you do when you feel that the little you are doing doesn’t affect the overall outcome anyway? I recommend that you remember this story – it’s one of my favourite stories. It is the story of the star fish.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man that used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean." "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die." Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

I am sure you get the morale of the story. What you are doing may not make sense to others and may not affect the whole nation, but it may affect an individual and change him for life. It can affect a community. When your young son is sitting beside you, while you insist on obeying traffic rules, you are laying a great foundation for his future. When you refuse to accept bribes, despite the fact that others are doing it, you are touching someone at least. When you do things right, someone is watching…and that someone can be positively affected for the rest of his life. To that one, the little thing that you are doing makes all the difference!

What little thing will you do today, that will make a difference?