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January 19, 2017  

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The Power of One
Amy Zindell, Minneapolis, MN
February 1, 2001

Ever think that your life doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the big scheme of things, that one person couldn't possibly make a difference in the world? Here's a GoodLetter from someone who says you couldn't be more wrong.

Contribute to the reader conversation on inspirational people.

Dear goodthings,

When I was ten, my biggest concern in life was making the soccer team. My best friend Joie's was saving the environment.

When I was fifteen, I spent sleepless nights wondering if my new crush would ask me to the school dance. And Joie. . .well, she would spend sleepless nights telling me about the inequitable state of our society.

When I was twenty-three, I was knee-deep in my first career, with my sights set on conquering the world of journalism. Joie joined the Peace Corps and boarded a plane to Namibia, Africa, her sights set on changing the world.

For six months I received the most amazing letters from Joie, letters delving into the heart and soul of a country that only ended up on the map of my life when Joie departed on her final journey. Through her letters, I followed her path of discoveries, felt the joy in her heart when she brought laughter to people who spoke a language she was struggling to learn, and used her teaching skills to reach into the hearts of children and help them discover the beauty not just in education, but in life. "I have found freedom with these African spirit children," she wrote. And, as always, I remained inspired by Joie, by her work, and by her ability to see the beauty in the sunrises, the sunsets, and the simplicity of a child's laugh.

On March 13, 1998, Joie died in a tragic car accident in Namibia. When a light as bright as Joie burns out, it is often difficult to describe her to those who never knew her. I wondered how I would ever be able to share her impact with the rest of the world.

And then I discovered Deep Roots.

Founded by two Peace Corps volunteers who served with Joie in Namibia, Deep Roots strives to capture the ineffable magic that was Joie by expanding and improving educational opportunities for Namibian children. The organization has opened my eyes to the fact that one person's memory really can move mountains. In some way, Joie's memory has brought together every member of the virtual, entirely volunteer-staffed organization. We work from all corners of the globe, and many of us wouldn't recognize each other if we passed on the street. Yes these people are some of the most important in my life because we're connected by the common bond of preserving the memory of someone we love, and the knowledge that -- through Deep Roots -- we all contribute something very important to the world.

This year, Deep Roots will be able to fund the secondary educations of 68 Namibian children. It's a profound example of how the inspiration of just one person -- even in a short life -- can have such an impact on the lives of others.

Just one person.

I carry Joie's mantra in my heart as a reminder that we all can make a difference by filling our lives with love and laughter:

"Go and find the sun that will fill you with warmth and happiness and you will see the days unfolding around you are the good days, the days of pleasure and dance, the days when you can breathe more clearly because you feel alive, because you are alive, living days that mean something to you. Embrace yourself, embrace all whom you love and believe in possibility."

All the best,
Amy Zindell (write to Amy)

A few of Amy's favorite goodthings:
Kickboxing; Paul Simon's "Concert in the Park"; laughing uninhibitedly; hugs; little kids with BIG imaginations; parents and sisters; Bloody Marys from Paul's Club in Madison; Wrigley Field. . . .

Share YOUR stories on "the power of one" inspirational person.

Donate, volunteer, or find out more about the work of Deep Roots.

To learn something about Namibia (like where it is), try these links: South Africa Online Travel Guide or the Namibian goverment site.

Readers Respond

Dear goodthings,

I read "The Power of One," and it really hit home for me. I too was inspired by Joie. I did not know where Namibia, Africa was, nor did I really care until I heard that my cousin Joie was going there with the Peace Corps. I remember growing up with Joie and her amazing spirit. Our family is very close and I saw Joie and my other cousins on a regular basis. Joie always knew how to make boring family outings more tolerable. I know, what is the point of me writing?

I was a 19 year-old kid when Joie left for Africa. I was a freshman in at the University of Illinois thinking that I wanted to be a chemical engineer. I remember when I got the news that Joie died. I had been toying with the idea to change schools and move out west. I made the decision the week of Joie's death to transfer schools.

When I got to Utah I continued in chemical engineering, but I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. I thought long and hard and I kept going back to the passion that Joie had for teaching. I loved reading the letters Joie sent talking about her expierences with the kids there.

While out here, I received a job as a tutor at a small private school. I had been tutoring for about a month and I remember driving home one day and I looked at the mountains, like I usually do, and I started to cry. I had finally found something that I felt so passionate about, teaching. I changed my major to education that week.

Joie inspired me to go out and do the things I wanted and dreamed of doing. Her passion for education lit a fire under me to teach everyone that I can. Joie has not only touched me, but a part of her will be passed on to all the students that I am going to be teaching. Hopefully I will have the same level of enthusiasm and dedication that Joie contained.

Joie is a shining example of how just one person can have an astounding impact on so many people without even realizing it. Tell those that you love how much you love them, and do it often.

Mike Sayre
Salt Lake City, Utah

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