Originally published in the WFCF Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 1, April 2008
“People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.” —Dorothy Day
At our recent Advisory Board meeting, it was reported that in 2005, UNICEF estimated the number of orphans world-wide to be 146,000,000. Our Board, consisting of many individuals experienced in meeting the needs of those less fortunate, was nevertheless awestruck that the number of orphans is nearly equal to one-half the population of the United States. From children being sold into sex slavery in Vietnam to victims of racial and ethnic cleansing in Africa and Europe, one might conclude that our human existence has never been devalued to such an extent. And while World Forgotten Children Foundation’s (“WFCF”) purpose is to promote the healthcare needs of children who are both orphaned and disabled, many of whom are without the ability, means or social standing to secure gainful employment, I was reminded that no matter how imposing the hurdles to providing for those less fortunate, we can all help by laying one brick at a time.
In this age of larger than life experiences, skyscrapers that reach new heights and ships that can carry thousands of passengers, there is a misconception that the size of the solution must match the dimension of the need or there is no point in seeking a solution. This notion ignores the effect that one person’s acts of kindness and generosity can have on an entire society. Witness the selfless work of Mother Theresa in the slums of Calcutta and how her actions helped raise the awareness of the entire world to the plight of the poor, sick, orphaned and dying. Another Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, stirred millions to overcome British rule in India through his commitment to non-violence and selflessness. Two individuals who continue to serve as models for right action, yet who faced insurmountable obstacles in bringing about change and in the case of Mother Theresa harbored doubts about her own effectiveness and commitment to God decades after, ministered to others one person at a time.
I will confess to feelings of hopelessness when I observe the sheer numbers of disabled and orphaned children and the miserable conditions in which many of them are forced to live. Under similar circumstances, I could barely function much less be optimistic about life and my future. Yet the smiles and enthusiasm of many of these brave young souls reveals the irrepressible human spirit and thus gives me hope anew for mankind. Seeing the gratitude in the eyes of a child who becomes mobile for the first time through a hand-powered wheelchair provided by WFCF or the residents of an orphanage in the former Soviet Union lined up in their best clothing to show their respect for a gift of medicine provided by WFCF funds is proof that we share in the human spirit. Through these less fortunate ones, I have learned to see the whole world as my own and to recognize that there are no strangers. I have learned that no matter how pressing my personal and professional dealings and the stress that I experience throughout the workday, I do not want for food, clothing, shelter, healthcare or safety. Knowing how these brave young souls endure hardships and inequities that would deflate me, I have learned to express gratitude for all that has been entrusted to me. I have learned what stewardship means and that I have a responsibility to these “strangers” in third world countries. In reality, not one of them is a stranger for we are all cut from the same fabric regardless of race, color, creed or nationality.
Each of us is truly our brother’s keeper, whether that brother is next door or on the other side of the globe. It is our duty to serve others, especially those lacking a safe and secure environment, adequate nutrition and health care, proper hygiene and sanitation, educational and vocational opportunities, and the smallest of creature comforts. Governments and their leaders, having proven time and again that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, are not the answer. Large organizations also suffer from some of the same corruptible influences for they must deal with and through government officials who elevate their own interests above that of their charges. It is the individual who makes the greatest difference in the lives of others, the ones who commit to the small effort, to “lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.”
Will you join WFCF by making your contribution to a small effort that we hope in earnest will change the world?