‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito’
Have you ever felt too small to change the world? In the grand scheme of things, what difference can I make? It often seems that problems are too big to solve for one individual.
Well, if you think you are too small to make a difference, think about the effect that a mosquito can have on your sleep. This tiny creature can be a great nuisance. It sucks your blood during the night, leaving your skin swollen and itchy the next day. Despite its miniscule size and fragility, it makes a difference to your life.
You, a human being, far larger, stronger, and more intelligent than a mosquito can also make a difference to people’s lives. It takes just one act of kindness to lift someone’s mood. For example, patiently listening to a friend’s problems and offering them advice can help them when they are going through a tough time.
A simple act of generosity, offering a hungry stranger some food and drink for example, can bring great happiness, both to the giver and to the receiver. Although these small acts, much like the mosquito’s bite, might not change the course of history, they do not go unnoticed. African people realise this truth. They focus on doing what they can, helping out the fellow members of their community, making the world a better place one step at a time.
But there is so much more to this proverb. Unlike mosquitos, we can inspire our fellow human beings to follow our example. That act of generosity, inviting your neighbour over for dinner one evening, teaches them something. It makes them realise that humans have the capacity and the will to do good, to help others. The person we help out today, will pass on your kind deed to another tomorrow. In this way human beings can set off a chain reaction of good acts in a community.
Moreover, we are superior to mosquitos in that we can work together. Our individual acts can make a difference, but the positive effect of our actions is multiplied if they are carried out by a whole community. For example, you might be the first person to suggest building a school in your community. Although we may make the first step to change alone, others may see the benefits of your idea, and support you to complete your project.
This raises another African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.’ African people realise that the biggest problems in this world can only be solved by a collective, rather than an individual. You may start off building that well, that school, or that orphanage by yourself or within a small group of people, but others may soon join in.
The first of these proverbs teaches us not to be afraid of acting, for every good deed has a positive effect on the world, no matter how small. and to work together where possible. The second reminds us that when we work together, we can make an even bigger difference. They are both admired all over the world, because people see so much wisdom within them. Therefore, African philosophy, the way African people view the world, not only inspires the people of their continent, but also the global population to make the earth a better place.