The Power of One

All of us have at sometime been faced with a task or obstacle that seems so big that we are threatened with being overwhelmed. When that happens it's good to be reminded of three truths: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time; never underestimate the power of one person determined not to be overawed or intimidated who simply gets down to work and then plugs away until its done; and, we are never alone in these things, God is with us when we are doing what He approves of and if that is the case - we are the majority, even if we are only one.

Anyone who studies world history will know of countless examples of individuals who have made a difference. President Ronald Reagan, during his time in the White House tried to identify such people and he called them 'stars' in the heavens of life. In the long struggle for decent government and freedom in Zimbabwe I know of many who would fit that description.

An elderly retired couple who, after visiting a hospital in Bulawayo, started to foster babies who had lost both their parents. We have 1,5 million orphans - perhaps the highest ratio of orphans to population in the world. That is just a statistic until you encounter a tiny baby whose mother has just died in childbirth and who has nobody. This couple have fostered dozens and the older children are now in school and being fostered as a family by another couple who have taken this on as a personal mission.

Cecil John Rhodes is another astonishing figure. He lived just 49 years, spent 23 of those in Africa and yet in that short space of time he drew the boundaries of 7 countries, started 70 companies, two of which stand today as among the largest companies on the earth, became Prime Minister of the Cape, built thousands of kilometres of railway track, started and stopped at least two wars. All without a telephone or Internet or the benefit of air travel. All based on 6 000 English pounds borrowed from a maiden aunt and all the while suffering from poor health.

We have just celebrated Easter and with it the story of one man who stood against time, spent just three years tutoring a small group of men and was then condemned by a corrupt and inept Court and executed on a cross. 'Well that's that!', the authorities must have felt. 300 years later the Empire that carried out the execution bowed to his memory and worshiped him as God. No man in history has had such an impact on the globe.

But we do not have to be Christ or a Rhodes to make an impact on our world. All it takes very often is a small gesture or act and you can help change the world. I used to take 60 small boys out to camp twice a year when I was younger. We did that for nearly 10 years and many of those kids can remember those camps as if they were yesterday. What fun we had! I have no idea how many lives we changed but I know it was many as they still write and call to say that those camps had a deep impact. I think that had more significance for me than winning 'businessman of the year' when I was 40 years old and the CEO of a major local corporate.

You also need to be careful. It was the action of a Deacon in a Methodist Church in South Africa who denied Ghandi the right to worship there when he was looking for answers to the deepest questions in life. He probably never realised what an impact he had on the world just at that moment. Never underestimate the impact of your words when you are dealing with a child. I have known many whose sense of self has been destroyed by a careless adult. We have to constantly strive to reinforce people's sense of worth and being.

I remember being on a plane coming back from an overseas trip with a number of young people who had been to the Special Olympics. What an experience that was to see these teenagers with such disabilities yet such confidence and behind it all the power and influence of a handful of people who made it all happen. One of the images of the Bush era that will always remain with me was when George Bush senior was introducing his family to the Republican Convention, he had on the stage with him a young boy who was handicapped - what impressed itself on me was that the boy showed no sense that he was in any way different or not special and I thought what a testimony that was to the Bush family.

When the MDC set out on this journey in 1999, we had no money, no army or police, no weapons except our pens and our votes and our capacity to speak for the have not's. The wealthy despised us and the powerful dismissed us as being insignificant. Yet the powerful unassailable Zanu PF has been forced over time to accept that they cannot run the country without us. The region has been forced to acknowledge that we cannot be ignored and the people have remained faithful to our pledge to work for them without violence or terror, simply using the power of one - one person's right to speak, one persons right to associate with another, one persons right to vote in secret.

In many respects this is the achievement of one man - Morgan Tsvangirai. He would never say that because it's also true that we are many, but the MDC was his vision and its basic tenants have been his and in many cases he has taken decisions alone and then stood by them in the face of severe criticism. The power of one.

It is tough and lonely when you are at the top of an organisation. Your have to make decisions that are subject to scrutiny and criticism. It is especially tough when those decisions affect the lives of your colleagues and friends and you are in rough waters. Yet even there never forget the power of one. The capacity of one person to make a difference when it matters. We all need to ensure that if the ball falls into our hands at a time like that, that we do our part and help the team win the move that might lead to victory.

We are in a tough spot right now, cannot do much of what is demanded of us and facing almost insurmountable odds. Our enemies and many of our friends are demanding that we quit the race. We do not agree, no matter what it takes we are in this deal to make it work and if that is not enough, to then to go on to fight another election in two years when hopefully there will be a more democratic dispensation. You can help us by simply exercising the power of one.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 15th April 2009