The Drop and the Jar
A few years ago at my son’s middle school graduation ceremony, the school superintendent wanted to encourage the graduating students to seriously consider what they could add to society as they move further ahead in their educational journey. “Does one person matter?” he asked. And instead of continuing his speech, he made a demonstration, one that I will never forget. He showed a large glass jar full of water and an eyedropper. He then asked the students, “How many drops of water you think this jar contains?” After a few guesses from the students, he disclosed the answer, “2673 drops! I counted them myself this morning while filling the jar.” Raising the eyedropper, he asked “Do you think another drop can make a difference to the water in the jar?” The kids confidently yelled, “No!”
This is exactly how we all feel. What can one person do? What would a drop of water add to a whole jar full of water? Would my small effort make a difference in this huge complex world ? Unlike the answer to the water drop question, answering ‘no’ to this personal question will result in a lazy, inactive life, a life lacking energy and achievement. The Shaitan uses this tactic frequently to discourage people from doing good deeds, especially deeds that have wide-ranging effects. Shaitan challenges us with questions all the time: “Are you going to reform the world? How would you succeed while everyone who tried before you failed? What is so special about you? Do you think this small action will make a difference? People are completely astray; do you think you are a prophet to guide all of them?” These and many similar questions are sufficient to disable any person from doing good, and can cause stagnation in reforming a society, especially when the task is huge and the challenges are so formidable.
In this article, we will elaborate more on this obstacle and try to understand the causes. We will also identify the spiritual power needed to overcome this problem and defeat all the tricks the Shaitan uses. We will share a few examples of how being proactive and making even modest effort can bring about great results. We will help the reader answer the question presented at the outset with a resounding, “Yes! one person matters! — a lot.” We hope that by the end of this article, we will be as excited as all the students at the school graduation were when the superintendent proved them all wrong. He added one extra drop to the jar, and the difference was so obvious that it drew loud applause from all the students and their parents. The drop changed the whole jar. Of course it did. It was a blue food-coloring drop!
The hoopoe is a beautiful bird but it is not the only one that is beautiful. It does fly smoothly and with style but so do many other birds. It is not mentioned in the Qur’an because of all of that. It was its small action regarding the people who worshipped the sun. It was the hoopoe’s proactive attitude towards the truth that made its name recited by billions of Muslims in the most honorable and authentic book. It is its small effort that led a queen and her whole kingdom to believe in Allah with His Prophet Sulaiman (pbuh). Not only does one person count; Even a little bird does