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Posted: November 12, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Power of one just isn’t enough

The power of one" is almost a modern-day mantra.

There’s the power of one person to make a difference. ("Just do it," says Nike.)

There’s the power of one person to save a life or to change the life of another, thereby justifying the first person’s entire life, we’ve been told, and it’s true.

There’s the power of just one vote to turn an election, the cry is heard. (Hardly. There would surely be a recount.)

There’s the power of just one person’s accomplishments to raise the bar or to set a new standard for achievement.

Just one person, of course, has the ability to make the winning point and save a team from loss and humiliation. (But how tired are we of players dancing in the end zone to celebrate their own actions, appearing oblivious to the fact that it took a team to get him there.)

Without doubt, there is power in just one person, in every single person, to accomplish great things. Otherwise, where would our heroes be? Every civilization needs them.

In many ways, they define us as a people. Surely, the stories of the lone gunman in the American West, wearing either a white hat or a black hat, provide potent images for our culture. Recall that the previous U.S. president adopted that image as his own and conveyed that same persona of America around the world in places where such swagger came across as brash, intemperate and bullying.

At some point in the development of the society of today, the emphasis became heavily tilted toward the idea of individual rights and entitlements. "Self-esteem" — emphasis on "self" — was determined to be lacking when people underperformed or acted out. So in education and mental health dogma, it was deemed necessary to help individuals develop pride in whom and what they were, even if there was no reason for such pride in many cases. The "self" took pre-eminence over any semblance of group effort or team-building. Sacrifice on behalf of anything bigger than one’s self seemed to fall beside the way. Sacrifice wasn’t quite as cool as it once was, say back in World War II. Would we have won that conflict without the sacrifice of so many millions of Americans?

I had a lesson in the power of many, not just one, this week. It started at church Sunday with an unfamiliar hymn to be sung. As I struggled with it, I thought how glad I was not to be singing all by my lonesome. Heaven would shudder, were the hymn-singing left to me. Yet the power of the entire small congregation covered over my shortcomings. We made beautiful music together. One person’s inabilities went unnoticed. We each were part of something bigger than ourselves.

Even before the service concluded, some of us rushed to the parish hall to set up for the vestry’s chili lunch at which we would hear the annual stewardship pitch. Frank Turner Jr. made it perfectly clear that we, each and every one, share the burden — and blessing — of keeping our church financially healthy. Our schedule ran at a fever pitch because a funeral followed at 2 p.m., and the parish hall had to be re-set for a reception for family members.

Oh, you should have seen the entire assemblage jump up from lunch to clear and re-configure tables to be ready. One person couldn’t have done it. It took "a village" to set up and clean up.

On deadline day for this column, I got the sweetest lesson in the power of many. I am not a skilled or successful gardener, but the English lavender I planted in the spring thrived. Their spikes were still craning toward the sun, but fearing the onset of frost, I set about snipping the fragrant stems. It was clear to me that one piece of lavender would not a bouquet make. Each was fragrant, but it took dozens of them to create the fragrant splendor that we love as lavender.

The power of one just isn’t enough. So I celebrate the power of many this day and all that is possible when we throw multiple shoulders together at a certain goal.

 

Barbara Morgan is a resident of Covington with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. Her column appears on Fridays.

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