Recently I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect on the difference one person can make. My daughter has just undergone necessary elective surgery and her recovery has been a painful and complicated one. During her days of hospitalization and recuperation at home, I’ve been keenly aware that my interventions on her behalf have made a tremendous difference in how much pain she’s had to bear and how quickly her complications have been addressed. There hasn’t been a roadmap in finding our way, as is true for so much in life. While she was in the hospital, I passed by many rooms where individuals lay sick and alone, and I wondered how many of them were getting the support and advocacy they needed. My daughter is now on the road to recovery, but I’m still reflecting on the impact of just one determined person.
Many of the articles in this issue similarly highlight the difference individuals can make, even when the circumstances we face are overwhelming and our efforts seem far too small to be anything but futile. Robert Purvis in the 19th century struggled with racism, women’s and human rights, protesting injustices throughout his adult life, as Margaret Bacon tells us in "Robert Purvis, Friend of the Friends" (p. 20). The seeds that Purvis and others planted in the 19th century bore much fruit in the 20th, although that work is by no means finished. In "Family" (p. 18), Helen Weaver Horn shares a beautiful description of her response to an isolated elderly man and an orphaned fawn—both offered an opportunity to thrive through caring attention freely given. JoAnn Seaver, in "A Big Event in a Small Meeting with a Small School ‘Under its Care’" (p. 16), describes a process carefully worked out by members of her meeting and members of its school community—a "visioning meeting"—that led to "renewed commitment and an enormous amount of energy" being released for the good of all. Without the careful attention of many individuals, this positive outcome surely would not have been possible.
In "Can Love Really Overcome Violence and Hate?" (p.6), Mary Lord asks, "How shall we as Quakers sustain ourselves as people of peace in the midst of worldwide war? By living in that covenant of peace which was before wars and strife were. . . . It is not our Quakerism, or our pacifism, or our knowledge, or skill, or emotion that overcomes hate and violence. We shall surely fail if we become proud of our virtue and traditions and become vain in our witness. We shall fail if we think the power that may move through us is our own. The power is not ours, it is God’s."
As I reflect on the difference one individual can make, I’m keenly aware that that difference can be enormous and far-reaching if we act in obedience to Divine leading. Our task is to discern that leading and to employ our talents as fully as possible in following that guidance. We can never know all of the results, but I know they can be quite astonishing. What better time than now, Friends, for us to mind the Light and to take action?