Guest essayist Michelle Miller knows the power of one firsthand. / Heather Wines
Oct. 26 is the 23rd annual Make A Difference Day, the nation’s largest day of community service.
On Make A Difference Day 2013, millions of volunteers will unite to improve the lives of others in their communities.
Find out how you can join us at makeadifferenceday.com.
I believe in the power of one — one person making a difference in somebody else’s life with just one act, in one moment, with one word of encouragement.
Never did I feel the impact of that more than during my years in New Orleans. When I moved there, the Crescent City was the murder capital of the nation, and much of the tragedy was unfolding in the city’s public housing neighborhoods.
I was a volunteer coach at the Rosenwald Gym, which served boys and girls who lived in the B.W. Cooper housing projects. Although I knew nothing about basketball, I gave it a shot.
The two years I spent with those 15 kids changed my life. They played ball, but we also took zoo excursions, had holiday pizza parties, went on trips to the library, and absorbed history lessons in the French Quarter.
Having grown up in South Central Los Angeles, I thought I had been exposed to it all. But the circumstances these kids endured awakened me to a new reality.
The B.W. Cooper projects have since been torn down. Since Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding of public housing, I have lost touch with the families of that neighborhood. But I did run into the sister of one of my young players, who is now a hardworking father of four, married and happy.
“Thanks for being there,” she told me as we shared a hug. “It meant the world to my little brother!”
“Ditto to the nth power,” I said. “I feel the same way.”