Denver Bar Association
September 2004
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The Power of One

by B.J. Clark

Editor's Note: This article continues the series started by DBA President Mary Jo Gross, where guest columnists write about their volunteer/charity involvement.

The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay, is an impressive novel, but the book’s title alludes to an even more powerful concept. It implies that each and every person possesses a unique power.

While this is not an original concept, the phrase begs for definition. Courtenay suggests the answers are not universal; they reside in each one of us as we experience the life we are leading. However, he suggests that each of us does possess such power and that we each need to look for answers that we can apply positively to our daily living.

As Marian Wright Edelman, the well-known author and children’s advocate, has said: "We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make, which, over time, add up to the big difference that we often cannot foresee."

For me, and for the wonderful people I work with through Epsilon Sigma Alpha, the best way to seize our personal "powers of one" is to volunteer and to promote service through personal and group projects that benefit our communities and the world. Pooling talents magnifies the scope of good works.

Finding a way to do a few good things each day is a constructive, therapeutic approach for building self-esteem. Some people who say they don’t have time to volunteer make the time to see their therapist in the hopes of adding meaning and a sense of self-respect to their psyche. Exercising the power of one on a daily basis is less costly, and can’t help but provide a measure of self-esteem.

Try a few of the following options for a week or two. See how you feel. Every little thing you do will make a positive difference.

Don’t have much time?

• Write a thank-you note to someone whose words, actions, or support have made a positive difference in your life.

• Send cards and notes of other kinds to people who deserve a compliment or a word of cheer.

• Promise yourself that you’ll give ten well-earned compliments a day.

Only have a lunch hour?

• Have lunch with someone who volunteers or who does public service work. Learn how you can support valuable programs using the time available to you. If you aren’t interested in that person’s cause, he or she probably will know about others that will suit your time, talents and interests.

• When you’ve identified your causes, take someone else to lunch to interest them in volunteering or participating in what
you’re doing.

• Use your lunch hour to be effective. If your interest is donating to people in need, take your lunch hour to collect those items. Tell your office you’ll be collecting used books for the nursing home or the veteran’s hospital, or hygiene products to take to homeless or women’s shelters during a specific lunch hour. Deliver the donations on your way home.

Multi-tasker?

Love your exercise? Find a cause that encourages you to walk, run or exercise to gain pledges for their cause. You’ll get both your mind and spirit in shape.

• Hobbyist or crafter? Donate or sell your wares to support a good cause.

• Social butterfly? Organize a "night of giving" dinner for a set price and donate the proceeds to a favorite charity, or offer one of your dinners as a raffle item for a charity auction.

Other options:

Use the DBA to get involved in local charities or causes.

• Contact charities or causes that interest you directly. Ask about the projects and volunteer groups they support locally.

• Contact specific institutions, hospitals, nursing homes or schools to inquire about opportunities for volunteering.

• Serve on Boards of Directors or committees of charities/causes that you support.

As you get hooked on expressing your positive personal powers, I encourage you to join a premier service organization such as Epsilon Sigma Alpha. These groups usually have long-term relationships with the charitable organizations they support and provide options for "hands-on" philanthropic projects as well. Through group work, you can see how many small contributions can make a big difference for charities over time.

Epsilon Sigma Alpha has supported St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for more than 30 years. In that time, our membership has raised dollars and pledges amounting to more than $75 million. Members who have worked for the hospital also have seen the research they’ve supported turn the odds upside down for children with leukemia. Early on, our members worked hard because the odds were that only one in four children with specific types of leukemia would live. Now three out of four children survive.

I encourage you to act to identify your "power of one" in the increments of time that suit your schedule. Over time, you’ll make a wonderful difference in your own life even as you improve the world of those around you. Enjoy the journey. Embrace your power of one. Begin today!

B.J. Clark is the executive director of Epsilon Sigma Alpha International, a premier leadership and service organization whose mission is to bring good people together to do good things on a local, state and international basis. Currently, ESA is conducting a "Million Mile Marathon," a unique fund-raising event for those who are more interested in helping kids than in running races. For more information, go to http://www.esaintl.com or http://www.millionmile.org. B.J.’s husband, Roger Clark, is president-elect of the Colorado Bar Association.


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