The Power Of One

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 - 2:53pm

Never forget, no matter how overwhelming life's challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person. 

~ R. Buckminster Fuller

Few people embody being "that one person" better than Nicholas Winton.

Never heard of him? Neither had I until recently. But he's now a hero of mine.

Winton was a British citizen who rescued nearly 670 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia during World War Two.

He did this of his own accord, not as part of any state agency or organized movement. Initially on a skiing trip to Switzerland, he canceled his vacation after Kristallnacht and went to Prague to help a friend there who was working to support the local Jewish population. Having learned that Britain's Parliament had recently voted to accept European war refugees provided they had a place to stay and could pay a £50 deposit, Winton began single-handly relocating Czech Jewish children to safety in his home country.

Before the Nazis tightened their control on Czechoslovakia, Winton managed to put 669 children on trains to the Netherlands, from where they were then sent to homes of foster families in Britain that he (and his mother) had found for them.

Tragically, after their children departed to safety, many of the biological parents left behind ultimately ended up perishing at Auschwitz.

Winton sought no fanfare for his heroism. He spoke so rarely of it that the general public had no idea what he had done until nearly 50 years later. His own wife (whom he married after the war) didn't even know until she one day came across the ledger he had used to keep track of the children during the evacuation.

Once she realized the magnitude of what this quiet hero had done, she worked with a television producer on a TV special to recognize him publicly for his humanitarian effort. By this time, Winton was an elderly man.

He agreed to attend, embarrassed by the attention. And unbeknownst to him, the producers had tracked down one of the children he had rescued, now an adult, and seated her next to him throughout the evening. It wasn't until the end of the ceremony that they announced to him who she was. Watching Winton realize that the smiling woman next to him had been able to live a long, happy life because of his courageous action all those years ago is a very tender moment.

And if that doesn't bring a tear to your eye, what happens next should. The host then asks the audience "Is there anyone else here who owes their life to this man?"... and EVERYONE stands up. Turns out, they had packed the theater with his former rescued children, now in their 50s and 60s, each of whom was saved by this kind, humble man:

We rarely get to witness such a moment of grace like this. It's simply perfect.

For me, it's a reminder never to discount the impact our own individual acts can have.

Winton certainly answered Fuller's call to "be that one person" to make a difference in the world.

Will each of us?

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14 Comments

roscoepcoltraine's picture
roscoepcoltraine
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The Power of One

Very cool story, Adam. We all need to know about people like this. Very motivational. And yes, reminds us we can all make a difference. 

ruairi2k's picture
ruairi2k
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Hope

If our 'system' is a reflection of the way we live our lives and how we treat other people (which it is), then there's nothing more important than what we choose to do as individuals, because that is the world we then fashion. As Rebecca Solnit so eloquently puts it:

"Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It's the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone"

I think this applies to Nicholas Winton. Thank you Adam, very inspiring.

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
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Where exactly does one begin?

There are solutions, but moving the problem from one country to another does not seem to have long term benefits. Until governments can coordinate efforts to minimize the impact of decreasing resources and increasing population, these stories will become commonplace and slowly fly under the media radar. The power of one is really all we have left to quell the trend.

https://newsline.com/trump-triggers-mass-departure-of-refugees-to-canada/

P.S. remember to check your news sources for reliability. In depth and critical analysis of sources should be standard practice in your fact checking. 

suziegruber's picture
suziegruber
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Meaning

Hi Adam,
Thank you for posting this powerful story.  It prompted me to listen to Chris' interview with Stephen Jenkinson again and I found this very relevant gem.

the ripples of your days are not for you to decide their meaning. They are for you to labor in the premise of the meaning of other people, the ones who came before you. And understanding all the while that the meaning of your life is in the hands of those to come; that you do not have an authoritative voice in the meaning of your life. You do not, and it is proper that you do not. There is humility, yes, but there is no humiliation in that.

What if we all have confidence in our own basic goodness.

-- Suzie

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
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That is a fantastic quote
ruairi2k wrote:

If our 'system' is a reflection of the way we live our lives and how we treat other people (which it is), then there's nothing more important than what we choose to do as individuals, because that is the world we then fashion. As Rebecca Solnit so eloquently puts it:

"Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It's the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone"

I think this applies to Nicholas Winton. Thank you Adam, very inspiring.

I love that Solnit quote.  It is so true.  

It's part of the reason I have come to despise the sort of alt-energy green articles that come out and say that geniuses like Elon Musk are working hard on awesome things and all we have to do is believe in that future and it will happen.  So it doesn't.  Not really.  Because to make it happen will require real work, hard decisions, and life-style changes.

But a lot of people, self-described 'optimists' who don't like anyone raining on their parade, excuse themselves from acting because they are already 100% occupied being optimistic.  Done!  Problem solved!

Same for pessimists, who fall into the trap of thinking that they have no power and so they take no actions at all.  But how do things change then?  If not them (or you or me) then who?

I still chafe at the word "hope" because I think it is an interchangeable word for optimism in my culture.  Instead I am increasingly using the word 'faith.'

Not in an organized religion sense, but in the way of knowing that I do have an impact, even if I do not get to see all of its workings in this lifetime, or get to have any say in how others interpret or use it.  So I have faith that if I operate with full integrity, and with a clear heart and mind, and do my very best, that this is what I am here to do.  What happens next is not in my hands.  But it will all work out exactly as it was meant to, otherwise it would have been different.

That's what I mean by faith.

So count me as a 'realistic optimist' which I do not place on the optimist-pessimist spectrum but rather as a third axis up above, making a triangle shape out of the three states of being.

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
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Faith without works?

 Faith is not intellectual assent only; it involves life change. Our faith is evidenced by the way we live. 

If we do it at the expense of our environment and the other creatures we share this planet with, we end up at the same place as Easter Island, the Fertile Crescent and the other abundance of examples. Do we comfort the afflicted or afflict the comfortable? History is replete with solutions and most bring with them  "angst" and the gnashing of teeth. Staying one step ahead of Mother Nature requires a diligence most of us cannot muster. Short term fixes, at length, require other long term fixes we seem to be unable to secure. Until we seriously recognize our human impact on this world and planet, all the "Musk-wellian" solutions will only prepare us for an isolated demise on foreign world. I would start by planting a tree for each of my TWO children and one for their children. I know there is a compost pile somewhere in the future with my name on it. We have achieved Peak Prosperity and only the wise and diligent advocates of its tenets will tolerate the slide into the future.

Cornelius999's picture
Cornelius999
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Quite possibly our inner

Quite possibly our inner compass is trustworthy and we needn't be overawed by" facts" and reason, techniques and technology. Buddhism says we need to quiet our grasping at the world or we wear ourselves out. The technology consumes us.  Outer limits can spur inner growth and community flourishing:

     " The reasonable man adapts himself to the world.  The unreasonable man adapts the world to himself.          Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man"        G.B. Shaw

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
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Agent700's picture
Agent700
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Being a "Realistic Optimist"

I hear you Chris, and have always considered myself to be both. But after years of being surrounded mostly by people who are at either ends of the spectrum, and as today's realities wear away at the optimism part, it is becoming increasingly difficult. Especially the past 6 months for some reason, that I can't identify. It probably is my unwillingness to accept that there are truly evil and dark forces working against me and all of mankind..

Maybe Cornelius999 has it correct with the comment about Buddhism, "we need to quiet our grasping at the world or we wear ourselves out. The technology consumes us."......I guess I'm saying this member's realistic optimism is turning more to HOPE that something comes along to change the course.. Is that called faith?

PaulJam's picture
PaulJam
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realistic optimism

For what its worth, as having been for a few years a serious practitioner/student of buddhism, I'd say that it is more an issue of right action than of optimism or pessimism.  The ideal is to engage in actions as an expression of your life and values,  to wholeheartedly endeavor to accomplish as much as you are able given your position/circumstances, yet also develop the capacity to not be overly attached or invested in (this is not at all the same as indifferent to!) the outcomes of your work or the issues you are working on.

SagerXX's picture
SagerXX
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Realistic Optimism

A year after the Global Financial Crisis, huge swathes of my life fell apart.  My business (sensitive to the state of the economy) saw its gross revs drop by about 50%.  Not long after, I had to short-sell my house (losing my life savings) because of that.  Not long after that, my marriage -- already wobbly -- came apart.  

I found myself living -- thanks to the generousity of some friends -- in a small Airstream trailer w/no running water in the woods on 19 acres near Boiceville, NY.  It's amazing how liberating loss can be.

I spent 7 weeks in that trailer over a June and July, mourning endings and celebrating new beginnings.  I came down out of the hills and woods of the Hudson Valley before August began, and have not looked back since.  

REALISTICALLY, in the not-too-distant we can all expect to lose much of what we have, most especially in the categories of material comfort, wealth, and the illusion of security that modernity has bestowed.

OPTIMISTICALLY, we will move towards that eventuality of our own accord, embracing the inevitable instead of going screaming and kicking, and by so doing we can dictate *some* of the terms under which we relinquish our current method of living the day-to-day.

OPTIMISTICALLY, we will understand that most of what we must relinquish does not hold any real promise of true soul satisfaction, authentic comfort, or legitimate security, and certainly has very dim long-term prospects.

OPTIMISTICALLY, we will allow ourselves to change, to grow, to become new sorts of people.  We will simplify our living, we will withdraw ourselves from the awful soul-sucking charade of the rat race/fight cage, and we will find other like-minded individuals and in their company create not just a new path forward, but the new culture that understands the pleasures of that path.

But first, IME, you have to give up what you have and think you hold dear, and go sit in the dark in that Airstream for a good spell.  Listen to the night.  Come through your resistance, sadness and fear.  Your better life awaits.

VIVA -- Sager

Cornelius999's picture
Cornelius999
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I mention Buddhism hoping

I mention Buddhism hoping that my Taoist energy-work will eventually lead to a mental experiencing of the world like it or to the Taoist source of everything.  Christian mystics like Meister Eckart experienced it as the real " ground " out of which everything arose.  The Church didn't like that but he survived.

The irony of course that without the power of modern medications, anti-depressants and tranquillizers, one of which I've just taken to stop my adrenals being in over-drive ( if I push myself overly - not here) I wouldn't be able to function. So my sniping at modernity depends on the multinationals and I'm in awe of the good things modern meds can do despite their downsides.

However my energy flows can be powerful sometimes and I know they have the potential to transform my body and mind given time and practice.  It also makes me seriously think about what the great masters and immortals like Lao Tsu may actually have achieved.

I'll just say Agent700 wer'e becoming more aware of dark and maybe evil forces especially via the internet. But I see them as parasitic, not being able to function without something more natural, more wholesome to live off and so ultimately weak.

Agent700's picture
Agent700
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Hope or Faith, and how on earth do we tell the difference..

Wow Cornelius999, I hope you're coming to Rowe!

I have lived in China now for 7 years, am married into Chinese culture, but still am waiting to meet disciples of Lao Tzu. Having never been a religious man, but having always felt that nature holds the key, Taoism is super interesting.

But if parasites/viruses/bacteria are natural organisms, as are us - the hosts - does this mean the only solution is to live in the cave like he did? I'm becoming lost for the answer, but thank EVERYONE HERE for allowing this discussion!

Cornelius999's picture
Cornelius999
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Agent 700 you've educated me

Agent 700 you've educated me - a trip to China might have helped! Being the author of Tao The Ching is too nebulous and obviously doesn't cut it with practioners for whom actual attainment is everything I'm guessing. There's nothing theoretical about energy Taoism As far as I'm concerned its mainly work and perseverance. I use Taoism" because people have heard of it but Joseph Campbell says this power has been known to all cultures
I haven't tried the cave but found that lying on a floor over granite opened my heart center. There would likely local energetic conditions that helped practice.

Unfortunately since I had to scrub a trip to L A last October at the last minute, I won't be venturing to Rowe this time though I would enjoy it.

I hope you all have a good time there!

PS I like Damo Mitchell's books on T.

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