“There is a light in this world… more powerful than any darkness we may encounter…. [This] spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”
Mother Teresa, who would not be considered an “ordinary” person, said this once, and there are people who are proving her point every day, serving as lights in the darkness. Even in the midst of devastating circumstances, there are individuals who shine like beacons of light with the efforts they make to make their little corner of the world better. In the fight against global poverty, resources like resilience and joy are all too often underestimated.
For example, 67-year-old Gangadhara Katnam has been filling potholes in Hyderabad, the Indian city where he lives. His effort to tidy up the streets does not only keep clothes from getting ruined–it can save lives. People in cars, on bicycles and on foot all have been seriously injured due to driving or falling into these massive potholes. Katnam says that if he and his peers wanted such problems to get better, they would have to step up and do it themselves. And so he took the initiative to make his sphere of the world a better place and help those around him.
Another one of the lights in the darkness is McArthur Krishna, a volunteer for the Krishna Kumar Charitable Foundation (KKCF). She works to provide employment opportunities and education for young women, which is no small task to take on in the Indian culture of dowries and strict gender roles. As Krishna states plainly, “these girls have one option. They are going to get married to someone, and what they bring to that marriage will determine how the rest of their life goes.” The opportunity for women to take on responsibilities expands their horizons as they find personal fulfillment and their communities watch them succeed. The opportunity to contribute increases self-worth and the way young women are valued by others.
In Ban Naphia, a village in Laos, a man called Phet Napia melts down metal that he collects from ammunition shells and unexploded bombs that litter the countryside and then molds them into key rings and eating utensils. Laos is climbing out of poverty—it was ravaged by bombings during the Vietnam War, which is why this scrap metal is so plentiful. Phet Napia is a testament to the resilience of the country’s population, making something useful and beautiful out of something that was originally harmful and ugly.
It is simple, but all too often forgotten: there is so much good being done in the world. Sometimes the goodness comes in massive strides, as in the successful implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. Sometimes it comes in inspiring milestones, as on July 24, 2015, which marked one year of Nigeria being polio-free. And sometimes, the most influential acts of goodness shine through in a retiree filling potholes or a young woman being given a sense of purpose or in a villager’s resourceful spoon engineering. And for a pedestrian who avoided a pothole, a young woman who finally feels valued or a man making lemonade out of lemons, perhaps this is the sort of goodness that has the biggest impact.