Why Every Drop in the Bucket Matters

I had the good fortune of listening to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn speak about their new book, A Path Appears, earlier this week. It is a wonderful book, filled with inspirational stories and persuasive data about how individual people can make a difference in the world. A beautiful quote from Lu Xun opens the book and summarizes it well: "Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing -- but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears."

Kristof tells a story in the book, that I was lucky to hear him tell in person, about how small actions by individuals can, in fact, make a huge difference in the lives of others, and how a single action often leads to a trajectory of impact enabled by the original act. His story is about a Polish Armenian refugee who was saved from execution in Yugoslavia during WWII because a French diplomat wrote a brief response to this refugee's letter. Then, that same refugee was sponsored to come to America by a generous-hearted young woman from Portland he met in France after his release.

Those two small acts -- drops in the bucket -- changed one man's life forever, and that man was Nicholas Kristof's father. So indirectly, those small acts have also enabled the work of a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, who, through his writing and speaking, now encourages millions of others to do good in the world.

As Kristof suggests in the book, drops in the bucket matter -- that's how you fill buckets. And it's by filling these buckets that we'll create real change.

I'm sure most of us have examples in our own lives of how a single, simple action has had wide-reaching impact. In my family, during the height of the Great Depression, someone gave my grandmother a job singing at a radio station when she was just eight years old. Her income from that job saw my family through the hardest of times after they had lost everything. While this story may not be life and death as it was with Nicholas Kristof's father, it is one of countless examples of a single person, and a single action, that can change the direction of people's lives, potentially for generations.

So when people ask me whether their signatures really matter on Change.org, whether a small action like a signature, can really drive change, my answer to them is always, "Absolutely." We see ordinary people create extraordinary change every day, and as more people take action more often, we begin to counter feelings of hopelessness, and accelerate the pace of change.

In 2014, we saw more than 5,000 victories on Change.org -- nearly one victory per hour. (We call it a victory when the recipient of a petition agrees to do what the petition requests.) These victorious petitions had 44.2 million signatures on them -- that's 44.2 million drops in the bucket. 44.2 million small actions in 2014 that led to major changes like:

If you want to see more of the amazing things that people made happen in 2014 - people like you, who took the small action of signing their name to a petition they cared about - take a look at this video of 2014 victories.

I'd love to hear in the comments about small actions people took that helped you, or small things you've done to help others.

What will be your drop in the bucket in 2015?

Jennifer Dulski - @jdulski