Making a difference, one at a time

In the Joint Leadership Programme that I had attended as part of my course to become a full-fledged Military Expert, I had the opportunity to watch a video which told a simple story. I had known this story many years ago, but as I watched the video this time, I had more reflections given my new situation as a working adult with a team under me.

The story goes like this:

There was this man who observed a boy dancing along the beach. As the man slowly walked up to the boy, he noticed that the boy was not dancing. Rather, he was moving inwards to the beach and then outwards to see. Curious, he walked closer. What the boy was did was to walk up to a starfish, pick it up, move towards the sea and throw the starfish into the sea. He asked the boy, “What are you doing?”. The boy explained, “The tide is out and these starfish are trapped under the hot sun. They will die if they do not return to the sea.” The man then said, “Do you know how many starfish there are along this long beach? You couldn’t possibly make a difference!” To which the boy calmly picked up another starfish and tossed it to the sea. “Made a difference to this one.”

Essentially the story is about how sometimes the things we do are seemingly meaningless in the large scale of things, yet if we look at it carefully, each individual effort plays a tiny part. No matter the magnitude, you’ll still make a difference.

I thought about the times I voiced out my opinion on Facebook by updating my statuses. After a few friends who repeatedly expressed their displeasure or irritation, I stopped. However the statuses might have given somebody something to think about, and it might have allowed others to gain a separate perspective if they choose to read it with an open mind. It could have made a difference to someone else, yet I didn’t continue my efforts because of peer pressure. Thinking back, it was really silly.

True leadership will not be affected by others so easily. I should have persevered. Which is why this blog is still useful and relevant. I am not sure who will read all these posts, but one day someone would stumble upon this and hey, perhaps I would have made a difference to that person.

There is a quote that goes something like this “that which is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. While my status updates have nothing to do with evil or good, the rough idea remains. That which is necessary for negativity to triumph is for positive people to do nothing.

As we look at how the internet is right now, we have many avenues for people to write and whine with no real consequences. People who have different views do not engage in conversation for fear of a flame war. People criticize others without knowing the real facts or considerations behind the case because nobody took the effort to educate them. Nobody took the effort to stand up for what we believed in.

Hence what I did today was this: I shared a link to a website containing pictures of the Holocaust, where the Germans packed the Jews into concentration camps where they tortured and killed the innocent. I tried to use a non-confrontational approach, so I shared the link with a question for people to think. “Can anyone say for sure that this will not happen again?”

The reason why we are all involved in National Service is to ensure that we have a fighting chance to prevent such sad things from happening again. Nobody can be sure that we won’t be invaded. Wars are still fought till this day; but the magnitude are just smaller compared to the World Wars. I rather have a fighting chance than not at all. Even if we bring out examples of how certain countries have no military, can anyone really say for sure we will never be bullied?

Food for thought.

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