“All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.”
Dr. David Rabin was 50 years old when he died on October 26, 1984 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) known also as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Dr. Rabin was a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University when he received the diagnosis nearly five years earlier.
Because of his medical training, he knew what would happen. His legs became stiff, then weak. Soon paralysis set into his lower limbs then the upper. Eventually his body would no longer obey his commands. He could form words only with the greatest difficulty and eventually not at all.
He lost his ability to treat patients and could no longer go to the hospital to work. He would have had a brilliant academic career but ALS eventually prevented him from even turning the pages of a book. He could have succumbed to this debilitating disease but inside the body that would no longer respond when asked Dr. Rabin’s spirit thrived.
From another physician who also had ALS he learned about a computer that could be operated by a single switch. That switch could be operated by anyone as long as they still had the function of one muscle group. Dr. Rabin’s strength was almost entirely gone except for one part of his body – his eyebrow.
For the final four years of his life, Dr. Rabin used his eyebrow to speak to his family, tell jokes, write papers and review manuscripts. He carried on a medical consulting practice. He taught medical students. He published a comprehensive textbook on endocrinology and received a prestigious award for his work. And he did it with the only thing he could control – a single eyebrow.
When I read that story in vivealive.blogspot.com (April 2009), I was in awe. How often have I dreamed small dreams or avoided high mountains because I perceived my powers of influence and ability were too small.
It takes people like Dr. Rabin to remind us of the enormous potential in very small things. No wonder the Hebrew prophet said, “Despite not the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10).
Michael Cardone Sr. received his first retirement check and decided he didn’t want to live on that for the rest of his life. So he began a company to re-manufacture auto parts. Today CARDONE Industries employs over 4,000 people on the north side of Philadelphia. The impact of this company on Philadelphia and around the world is incalculable.
Truett Cathy along with his brother and business partner, Ben, started a small restaurant in 1946 where they created their famous chicken sandwich. Today Chick-fil-A has a total of over 1,500 stores and Mr. Cathy’s net worth is over $1.3 billon.
Jonas and Anne Beiler (Auntie Anne) began making pretzels for a farmers’ market. In 2006 Auntie Anne sold their 1 billionth pretzel. You can find this tasteful pretzel in over 1,200 locations around the world and in 26 countries with sales of $410 million in 2012.
In Fortune magazine (July 22, 2013) David Eng interviewed Auntie Anne who gave this threefold advice: Tell the truth, even if it hurts; Give ‘til it feels good; Have faith in God.
Auntie Anne said, “Auntie Anne’s is a modern day miracle that never should have happened. I had no formal education, capital, or business plan. But we practiced what I call the three small P’s. We started with a purpose—counseling and helping people. We had a product that supported our purpose. Then we got people to do it. The three small P’s result in the big P—profit.”
What does it take to make a difference? Who knows what anyone can do with a love of cars or the ability to make a delicious chicken sandwich, twist dough into pretzels or simply raise an eyebrow.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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