Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” A time existed in my life when I believed that I could never leave a significant mark on this world. Born prematurely, I fell behind in my milestones and entered pre-school for at risk students due mostly in part to a speech impediment. Shortly after, I failed my first vision test and was found to have an accommodation defect that made reading and spatial work an everyday struggle. I found myself feeling small in a world that seemed geared more toward the gifted rather than the needy. Finally in fourth grade, I met a teacher who recognized my struggles would not be my downfall, but rather the building blocks of my future. He threw his stone my way, and his stone’s ripple moved me to make a choice.
What changed at that point, though subtle, signified a rebirth when I look back. I know it became my turning point. It was not that in fourth grade I all of a sudden became morally courageous. However, it became a point of influence in my life, sending me down a path, eventually making me a young woman with confidence to take on a world that before I felt only weighed me down. As I rode that first ripple, I soon found myself in a karate dojo. My instructor, all of 19 years old himself, surely could not have been impressed by me, a tiny, 12 year old girl who had discovered that success in athletics usually came to the big and strong. While he had the opportunity to instruct the stronger adults and teens, my instructor instead threw his stone in my direction, taking me under his wing and leading me down the path of a black belt. Soon he encouraged me to throw my own stone. I began to instruct a class of younger kids. My confidence grew as I found these kids looking to me not only instruction, but for encouragement and comfort. At this point, I finally realized that I too had the power to influence. In the same way that my teacher and karate instructor had emboldened me, I also could turn and do the same for others.
The sacrifices of those who stood against the atrocities of Hitler’s vision did not come easy, but those people made a choice to make a difference for humanity. I do not mean to lightly compare my journey to those, like Elie Wiesel, who experienced the Holocaust. I do, however, recognize the influence that one person can have, even if just on one other person. That one person may be the one who goes on to spread the idea of moral courage to the rest of humanity. I would like to believe that the stones I have and will cast will create the ripples that will one day change the world.