Yesterday, I was driving around town running errands and the song “Man in the Mirror” came on the radio. The song is a ballad that touches on a man being honest for the first time about his tendency of pretending not to see people in need in order to avoid helping. It was that moment of honesty that made him want to become a better person because he realized that in order to make the world a better place he had to change first. As I listened to the song, it reminded me of an experience I had just the day before.
My family was driving home from a trip to visit friends and family in another city. We stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant at the halfway point of our drive. As we were pulling into the parking lot, I noticed a young homeless woman make her way from under the freeway overpass and walk towards the restaurant.
My daughter and I had a brief encounter with her in the bathroom and it was clear that she was in pain and not well. When she emerged from the restroom, she asked if she could sit in a corner booth. She sat there quietly by herself and left the rest of the patrons alone.
But her quiet and unwanted presence there had clearly caused a change in the equilibrium and former peace of the dining area. You could feel the shift in the air from upbeat to an unspoken tension. Everyone’s demeanor in her general area stiffened up as they tried to pretend she wasn’t there, which only drew more attention to her. Ironically, several people in the restaurant were wearing shirts containing the name of their church or bible verses. The saddest display was a woman wearing a John 20:20 tshirt, who stood up and turned her back to the homeless woman and ate the rest of her lunch in that posture before quickly shuffling her family out.
As I was watching what was going on in the restaurant, the Lord put it on my heart to buy that young woman some food. So, I walked over to her and quietly asked her if I could buy her a meal. Her eyes brightened and she smiled. I asked her what she wanted and then purchased a meal for her. As discreetly as possible, I delivered the food to her as our family was making our way to the front door to leave.
What I experienced in that restaurant reminded me of a conversation I’d had with my friend just a couple of days earlier. I shared with my friend what the Lord had been putting on my heart about the power in just one person doing whatever He asks. It didn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant that act may be. We have no idea how much a single, small act of kindness can impact a person’s life for the better. And, if that person in turn goes out and helps another person, you have no idea how much farther it can go. If everyone just helped that one person in front of them, powerful change could quickly and easily be created on a larger, even global scale.
At this point, my friend spoke up and said, it’s like that quote from Mother Theresa, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.” It’s the same message I heard in the song a few days later. Siedah Garrett, the Co-writer of “Man in the Mirror” was interviewed in 2017 and shared these insights into the themes she incorporated in the lyrics, “the song was deeper than just the visual of a man looking at himself in the mirror. It was that, juxtaposed with the idea of a man going deeper inside himself to change from within. To make a difference on the outside, you have to first start from within.”
Isn’t it a common human reaction to look outside yourself at all that needs to be done that you cannot possibly do on your own and become so discouraged that you do nothing. But that’s not what God is asking us to do. He is just asking us to help the one in front of us. And, if everyone helped the one, we could change the world.
I fed one hungry person. Did I end hunger? No. But there was one less hungry person in the world. Who knows how helping that one person can cause a ripple affect that helps others.
True and lasting change comes from within and starts with you. Never underestimate the power of one person.