Do not wait
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” — Mother Teresa
If I’ve learned anything at all since Matt was born, I’ve learned this: no government or agency can match the power of one dedicated and compassionate person to improve the life of another.
Agencies, laws and governments are necessary, but to the extent that we come to rely on them for needs that can never be answered except by the presence of another human, they can work against us. Indeed, we can excuse ourselves from difficult or uncomfortable work by telling ourselves that “agencies” or “the state” or “the church” can take care of the problem. This is an illusion, and a dangerous one.
When I look back on Matt’s life, it’s always the individuals who made a difference for our family. The perceptive fourth grade teacher who saw past the disabilities to the intelligence that was not always obvious. The occupational therapist who patiently helped me understand what Matt’s challenges are, and how we can do little things daily to help him overcome them. Above all, the friends who simply loved us, letting their hearts lead the way and doing naturally the things that others, afraid of making mistakes, were too hesitant to do.
The remarkable lady pictured above with Matt has helped him, and many others with or without disabilities, in countless ways during the years — almost a decade now — that we have had the gift of her friendship. Her considerable skills and experience make her a candidate for more lucrative and prestigious careers, but she chooses to dedicate herself to her community and its people, volunteering in various ways that bring her into contact with those who need her.
Most importantly, she does all these things with a joy and enthusiasm that could never be matched by a salaried person sitting behind a counter or desk. In serving others face to face, person to person, she changes many lives. While she is one of the few people who have ever been willing to join me in my political activism (we spent a marvelous day in Richmond at the capital, meeting with our elected representatives and their staff), she never waits for leaders to do things that need to be done. How different our world would be if there were more people with her energy and dedication!
You may not see yourself as having abilities unavailable to powerful or well-known leaders, but in reality, you have opportunities that they will never know about. In your own family, church, community, school — really anywhere you go — big and little doors are open to you, chances to act in small ways that cumulatively bring about great change. It starts with a smile, a kind word, a human touch that no organization or legislature can produce. When you step out as one person to make a change in your world, you really aren’t alone; you’ll become part of an unknown army of others like you, who make the world a better place every day.