You Can Make A DifferencePosted: November 20, 2011
I recently watched Harry Belafonte’s life story on HBO and it brought 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 captivating record of liberal causes over the past 60 years.
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 to study 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. You get to make choices that make a difference.
Today, I heard a story today about “Larry” was on the way out of the grocery store when 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.
What shall I do today?
What shall I do tomorrow?