Making A Difference!

 I am watching the Harry Belafonte life story on HBO and it brings back memories of the excitement about change that we felt in the ‘60’s and ’70’s. No wonder there are so many old timers out and about in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. It makes us feel young again.

Harry Belafonte’s public life was well documented on TV and I found the show, Sing My Song, to be a brilliant and captivating record of liberal causes over the past 60 years.

Since HBO usually repeats, I hope you will all get a chance to see it. If you can’t see it now, it will probably be available on Netflix very soon.

Belafonte’s professional life as a movie and TV star made him a breakthrough figure in civil rights. It is hard to imagine how different things were when he skyrocketed to stardom. Times have changed. It was downright funny to see clips of a TV show that was cancelled because a white singer, Petula Clark, held Belafonte’s arm.

Like all black entertainers of his day, he suffered indignities such as not being able to use the hotel swimming pool in Las Vegas and having movies and TV shows cancelled because they were too outspoken.

It was his public support of Martin Luther King and the civil rights cause that first propelled him into the newsreels. I already knew that he was one of the major money benefactors of the movement but I had forgotten how brave he was. He challenged the authorities that were beating up people for attempting to vote or to integrate public buildings. In the TV clips, he was at the front of the marches as well as being the “money man”.

Then there were all those years in Africa, working for the starving children in Ethiopia and his many other African activities. Famous political leaders, John Lewis and Julian Bond were both in the group of students that Belafonte and his friends sent to Africa back in the 1960’s.

Later, he was in Haiti and now he is working with the UN all over the world plus leading black elders in trying to do something about the large number of young black men who are incarcerated in this nation.

As I watch the TV show, it seems as if his life intersects with many causes and he chose to take an active part in all of them. From my perspective, he was on the side of the angels every step of the way

Once again, I am reminded that one person does make a difference. We can’t all be movie stars and we don’t have fortunes to give away, but we can reach out and care for other people in our own way.

There is still a great deal of work to be done before we have established a nation with liberty and justice for all. Just about everyone can make a choice to help someone in some way. You get to make daily choices that make a difference.

Today, I heard a story today about “Larry” who has only a little bit of money but on the way out of the grocery store he met a family who had nothing to eat. Larry tried to give them cans of soup from his basket but they said they lived under the bridge and had no stove. So Larry went back inside the store and bought lunchmeat, bread, fruit and vegetables to give to them. This story touched me because I know Larry lives well below the comfort line and his generosity was a stretch. He didn’t solve all the problems for the family under the bridge but they ate that night. Larry made a difference!

Yesterday, a young man I know – “Jerry” who has had many problems of his own helped someone get into treatment for drug addiction. Jerry worked for about a month with the young addict and his mother and finally succeeded getting him placed despite their inability to pay. Jerry was elated because he was able to make a difference!

These three men – Harry, Larry and Jerry are all making choices that extend hope, love and support to others. They all made a difference despite the fact that one is a rich movie star, one a poor family man and the other a recovering addict. Their differences are in degree, not direction.

Are you making a difference? What do you do with your time, energy, talent and money? Is there something you can do to make a difference today?  Or tomorrow? Could you volunteer to drive an elderly person to the doctor? How about helping a young person read? Have you given anything away lately? Are you registered to vote? Are your daily choices on the side of the angels?

Never, never believe that problems are too big for your actions to count. You will always make a difference if you reach out in love to others.  You may not solve everything but you will change the trajectory of your own life and possibly the life of the others.

Ask Yourself?

What shall I do today?

What shall I do tomorrow?

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2 Comments on “Making A Difference!”

  1. Nancy says:

    Jane I liked your blog very much, on 3 people making a difference. I remember seeing/hearing Bellafonte in Las Vegas about 1959 or 1960 when I was far from being as socially conscious as I became. He was a bit outspoken during his show in terms of his ideas regarding the racial injustice and I dd not have the sense to inwardly applaud him, but felt he should not put that kind of issue into an entertainment. Here in San Miguel I had an acquaintance I respected, Arthur Silver, a black man who had been a close associate of M.L. King. I asked Arthur once if most of the people who followed King actually had King’s commitment to non-violence; if they understood it. He said no they did not, but saw it as a good strategy.

    I find what is happening in the streets of NYC and elsewhere interesting. It seems to be genuinely grass roots. I understand the frustration. What I do not yet see is what they think can actually be accomplished by their protests.

    i loved the 2 stories of ordinary people going out of the way to some special kindness.

  2. Thank you for reminding me that my existence is of value. I do make a difference.


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