Power of one just isn’t enough

The Covington News - - Opinion - Bar­bara Mor­gan Colum­nist

At some point in the devel­op­ment of the so­ci­ety of to­day, the em­pha­sis be­came heav­ily tilted to­ward the idea of in­di­vidu

al rights and en­ti­tle­ments.

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 team­build­ing. 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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