When I began The Plus Project the point was to connect with other people and to make them feel good. I wanted to take one person, and make them feel valued and recognized.
I wanted to bring joy to someone else’s life and show them that they matter and that they are loved. I know that I have it in me to be heard and to make a difference for someone. And I hoped to be able to make a difference by showing others that they can make a difference.
It reminds me of the story of the boy and the starfish. It’s been travelling around the internet for some years, so you may have heard it.
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son”, the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said ”I made a difference for that one.”
I wanted to do that for someone. I wanted build a globe spanning community that is connected by more than just wires and electricity, but by an appreciation for each other and for the value inherent in all human life. I want people to be able to focus on the things that connect them more than the things that separate them. I want people to see that we are – each and every one of us – incredible beings, with the ability to make a difference; with the ability to bring joy into the hearts and lives of others.
Since creating The Plus Project I have met a staggering number of fantastic people, and I have been amazed at the number of individuals who have expressed an interest in walking the same path. I’ve had the opportunity to speak words of encouragement to people dealing with the challenges of being gay in a culture that is largely anti-homosexual. I’ve participated in discussions on gender assumptions. And I’ve been able to support people who have fought for, and won, their personal freedom.
There have been several people that have contacted me about doing something similar on their own, and I’ve been asked to host some video chats with the individuals that I selected for The Plus Project (currently in the works) to continue the discussion. The point is that people have the desire and the ability to connect, and to do awesome things. Sometimes they just need an idea to rally around and to motivate them.
The picture above was created by Corey Gearhart, as part of his Second Iteration of The Plus Project. I’ve been under the weather for the last few days, and he surprised me with it earlier today. To say I was blown away is an understatement, but not just because it’s a great piece of artwork or because it was unexpected. I was blown away because it is an example of the fact that a single person has the ability to make a difference to others, and to the world.
Maybe something I said or did was important to Corey, but it doesn’t matter because now he is doing and saying something that is important to others. He is showing people that they matter enough to him for him to set aside time from his day to do something that is just for them. He is giving them a gift of beauty and joy that is not only theirs to keep, but theirs to share. It is my sincerest hope that the people touched by Corey will choose to share their joy with others, and so continue the cycle.
Corey is like that boy, tossing the starfish back into the ocean. I want to be like that boy too. I want to be able to say “I made a difference for that one.”