by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Amidst the lies, money and media of this presidential election, many of us figure nothing we do matters. I’ve modified this poem, first written in 1992, to reflect the unique challenge we face this Tuesday.

I heard a knock upon my door
And opened it to see
All the poor around the world
Looking back at me
In old clothes and worn-out shoes
With families to feed,
They held their hands out, hopefully,
Could I address their need?
“Too many,” I said, overwhelmed,
And shut the door instead
For I am just one person,
“There’s a way,” a small voice said.

NOT A MOMENT passed before I heard another knock,
And all the hungry, ’round the world
Were out there, to my shock
Their bellies round and bloated
The eyes as blank as chalk
They looked at me as if to speak
But fell, too weak to talk.
I shut the door in sorrow,
“There’s too many to be fed!”
For I am just one person,
“There’s a way,” the small voice said.

WHO WAS this voice, I wondered?
When a knock drew my surprise
Terrorists around my house,
Hatred in their eyes
Many strapped with belted bombs
Some were only kids
They stared at me and waited.
I shut the door and hid
“There must be a mistake!” I cried,
“These people are misled,
“I have no power over them!”
“You do,” this small voice said.

AND AS I pondered for a while,
Another knock I heard
This time the door revealed to me
A vision quite absurd
All the nation’s uninsured
Were crowded on my lawn
Wheelchairs, beds and bandages,
Their benefits long gone.
“What will you do to help us now?
“Leave us all for dead?”
“You’re asking me?” I told them.
“They are,” the small voice said.

AND THEN a crash and shattered glass
My windows had been torched,
I looked outside in horror at
A crime wave on my porch
Joblessness and drug abuse
An endless pile of guns
Poverty that turned to thieves
The sweetest mothers’ sons.
“Leave!” I shouted, “Go away!
“Where are the police?”
Slammed the door, then heard a voice:
“You can make it cease.”

AND SO IT went for all the day,
The knocking never ending
And every time a different cause
Too big for comprehending,
And always came this foolish voice,
A sound as calm as spring
Saying I had power
Over every single thing.

“SHOW YOURSELF!” I hollered now
“For this has gone too far.
“I’m busy, I have work to do,
“I need to wash my car.
“These optical illusions
“Are some deceptive game
“Thinking I can change the world
“Is just short of insane.”
I waited then, for some reply,
But quiet fell once more
Finally, a faint and weakened
Knocking on my door.
I opened it to see a child
Bending at the knee
I gasped for breath, rubbed my eyes
For this child looked like me.

HIS FACE was hung in sadness,
He stood there all alone,
His eyes revealed a hopelessness,
That chilled me to my bone.
I wanted to embrace him, but
He turned and walked away.
“You’ve left your child no future,”
I heard that small voice say.
“The power to create a change
“For hungry and for poor,
“Terror, sickness, you ignored them
“Just outside your door
“Because you are one person,
“You gave nothing but your sighs
“The price tag of your apathy
“Lies in your children’s eyes.”

NOW MY HEART was pounding,
My anger boiled and burned
“Tell me, then!” I hollered
“What fact should I have learned?
“Tell me how that I can save
“A life from such despair
“Tell me where this magic cure
“Lies hidden in the air
“Tell me how a factory man,
“A farmer pulling wheat,
“Can make a dent in problems
“Meant for armies, or Wall Street
“Tell me how a simple soul
“Turns living from the dead.”
And here it came, a single word:
“Vote,” the small voice said.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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