The Impact of One

Since attending Mass last night, I’ve been thinking about part of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans:  “just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all” (Romans 5:18). In the context of Christianity, this is an allusion to how one man’s negative action changed the world for the worse while one man’s positive action changed the world for the better. At first I reflected on how true this is per my beliefs and how in other religions one person has also had a massive impact on all of humanity. When thinking about this today, I started thinking about how frequently in history one person has made either a negative or positive impact on a portion of humanity.

Of course it was easy to think of singular people who have negatively impacted humanity. I immediately thought of Hitler who was directly linked to the start of World War II and the deaths of 6 million Jewish people. Negativity has stemmed from the impact of this one person for the last 90 years (the first Holocaust victims lost their lives in 1933). My next thought was of David Koresh, a cult leader, who did a number of unimaginable things to his followers and ultimately led many of them to their deaths in a fire in 1993. The losses were nowhere close to the scale of the Holocaust, but at age 9, this was the first time I remember seeing the news and thinking, “How can one person influence so many people? Why would people follow them?” Be they politicians, cult leaders, terrorists, criminals, etc there are many instances – more numerous than I can even fathom – where singular people have had a negative impact on humanity. In some respects, this can be downright discouraging.

However there is a light in the darkness! There are single people who have had major positive impacts on people around the world. My first thought was of Civil Rights leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Both of these men had major positive impacts on the Civil Rights movement. Then, I thought of Marie Curie. Her work with radium has been game changing in the medical field for over 100 years. Though her work ultimately cost her own life, it has saved millions of people. There are also people like Dolly Parton who are constantly positively impacting people by supporting literacy, medical research, and many other causes. When thinking of the positive impact of one person, we also have people like Henry Ford who developed the assembly line, and we have authors like Maya Angelou who impacted Civil Rights and Literature. Looking at the arts, there have been positive impacts by people like Lin Manuel Miranda. The list could go on and on!

My biggest takeaway from this reflection is simple. It can be easy to dwell on the negative impact of one person, but when you start to think about it, the positive impacts of one person occur frequently. What will your impact be?


The Great Kaysby