Only a few years ago the volunteers of the Portland Maine based women’s resource center ABBA came up with the idea for a men’s 3×3 basketball tournament to raise awareness for the program.  In that initial event 5 teams showed up and the leaders and volunteers of the program took the opportunity to share with the small group the mission of the program and highlight the extraordinary support that the organization provides.

IMG_4694Some might be discouraged with such a small turnout and feel that this was only a tiny chance to spread the word in comparison with what they had hoped – but not this group.  They realized what so many people seem to overlook – that there is no such thing as a tiny effort especially when making a difference in just one life can lead to remarkable things in the future.

You see, the mission of the organization is to provide resources for women who have become pregnant but may not have the support system in place to help them through the challenges ahead.  ABBA is there to support such young women and give them the encouragement, services, and resources that they need if they elect to keep and raise the child.

So five teams – is that tiny?  Not if just one seed is planted from the event and it results in the harvest of a young child who grows to carry forward the drive to serve and impact others.

Just the seemingly smallest acts of caring, kindness, or support have so often had domino effects that are incredible and thought provoking.   Yes, one person can seemingly change the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even millions but when you boil it down it is in fact a chain reaction of support from others that makes it all possible

IMG_4821Many of you may know the name Norman Borlaug.  He was ninety-one when he was informed that he had been personally responsible for saving the lives of two billion people.  The Nobel committee, the Fulbright Scholars, and many experts calculated that all across the world – in Central and South America, Western Africa, across Europe and Asia, throughout the plains of Siberia, and America’s own desert Southwest – Borlaug’s work in hybridizing corn and wheat for arid climates has saved from famine over 2 billion people … and the number is increasing every day.

Incredible isn’t it?

But what’s equally incredible is that for all the credit that Borlaug received … he may not be the person who is responsible for saving the two billion people.

IMG_4826It can be argued that it was Henry Wallace who was vice-president during President Roosevelt’s third term. Wallace, the previous secretary of agriculture, while serving as vice-president used the power of this office to create a station in Mexico whose sole purpose was to find a way to hybridize corn and wheat for arid climates … and he hired a man named Norman Borlaug to run it.  So, while Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Prize it was really Henry Wallace whose initial act was responsible for saving the two billion lives.

Or was it?? Maybe it was George Washington Carver.  You’re thinking peanuts and sweet potatoes and not corn and wheat but you may not realize that while he was a student at Iowa State University, he had a dairy science professor who allowed his own six-year-old boy to go on botanical expeditions every weekend with this brilliant student.  George Washington Carver took that young boy and directed his life.  And it was Carver who gave Henry Wallace a vision about his future and what he could do with plants to help humanity.

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Amazing isn’t it, what spending just a little time helping someone else can lead to?

But should George Washington Carver be given credit for saving the lives of the two billion people when maybe in fact the credit should be given to the farmer in Diamond, Missouri, named Moses?

Moses and his wife Susan lived in a slave state but didn’t believe in slavery.  At that time crazy people rode through farms at night, terrorizing who they called ‘sympathizers.’  And one cold winter night, Quantrill’s Raiders attacked Moses and Susan’s farm.  They burned the barn, shot several people, and dragged off a woman named Mary Washington … who refused to let go of her infant son, George.

Mary, was Susan’s best friend, so Moses sent word out immediately, trying to arrange a meeting with the cutthroats, trying to do something to get Mary and her baby back.  Within a few days, he had a meeting set; and so, on a cold January night, Moses took a black horse and went several hours north to a crossroads in Kansas.

There he met four of Quantrill’s men, who arrived on horseback, carrying torches, wearing flour sacks with eyeholes cut out over their heads.  And Moses traded his only horse for what they threw him in a burlap bag.  As they thundered off, Moses fell to his knees.  There, in the freezing dark, with his breath’s vapor blowing hard and white from his mouth, Moses brought out of that burlap bag a cold, naked, almost dead baby boy.  Moses fastened that baby under his clothes and walked the baby home.  Moses and Susan adopted the child as their own in honor of Mary who had been killed and the boy became know as George Washington Carver.

So is it Moses Carver who should get the credit for saving the 2 billion people or is it ….

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Well, how far back could we go?  It is seemingly endless isn’t it?  And it is seemingly endless the lives that can be touched by the everyday actions of people like you and me. There are people yet unborn, whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the actions you take … today.  And tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.  Regardless of your age, physical condition, financial means, color, gender, or belief – everything you do can have long lasting impact to countless others.

IMG_4714-2And from what you may think seems tiny and inconsequential at first – greater and greater things can grow providing more and more impact such as the lives that the ABBA organization touches through it’s services and via it’s mission to spread the word through such events as its basketball tournament which is now hosted by St. Joseph’s College and has grown to 14 teams.

Tiny?  When it comes to service to others … every time you reach out to help another person you plant a small seed with the potential to grow into something or someone who will have an impact on something as valuable as a family to something as grand as thousands, millions, or even….two billion people.

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This story is adapted from the book The Noticer by Andy Andrews.The photos are of 2013 ABBA basketball tournament with shots of my son Chris and his three friends Chance Baldino, Anthony Wilson, and Eric Dore.  The guys won their first 7 games on their way to winning their tournament bracket before falling in the finals to a team they had beaten earlier in the tournament.  Nice job guys.

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