When all is said and done, a poem on the power of one

by | Nov 6, 2022 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I heard a knock upon my door

And opened it to see

All the poor around the nation

Looking back at me

In ragged clothes and worn-out shoe

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

I’m just one man, how can I help?

“There’s a way,” a small voice said.

A MOMENT passed before I heard

Yet another knock,

All the hungry, ’round the world

Were out there, on my block

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 anguish,

“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 I heard a clanging sound

Outside my window, thousands more,

Yet all were wheelchair bound

Victims of our roadways

Some were only kids,

They whispered, “Can you help us?”

I shut the door and hid.

“There must be a mistake!” I cried,

“These people are misled,

“I have no way to help them!”

“You do,” this small voice said.

AND THEN A muffled rumbling

Drew me out to see

A massive wash of immigrants

Upon my property

Weary, hungry, some alone

All seemed rather scared

“What have I to do with them?”

“A lot,” the voice declared

THIS WAS FOLLOWED by the sound

Of soldiers in a fight

Foreign armies, tanks and guns

Their smoke turned day to night

“Why draw me to these battles?

“I’m not to them a threat!”

And then I heard that voice again:

“You affect them yet.”

AND THEN a crash and shattered glass

My windows all were torched,

I looked in horror witnessing

A crime wave on my porch

Random violence, home attacks

Thieves in callous lootings

Stabbings, punches, subway shoves

An endless string of shootings

“Leave!” I shouted, “Go away!

“Where are the police?”

I slammed the door, the voice again

said, “You can make it cease.”

AND AS I pondered what this meant,

The open door revealed

A gathering that shook my soul

A vision quite surreal

Pregnant women, in distress

Abused, raped or unloved,

And the souls of babies yet unborn

Hovering above.

“How will you to affect our fates?

How will we move ahead?”

“You’re asking me?” I gasped aloud.

“They are,” the small voice said.

AND SO IT went for all the day,

The knocking never ending

Every time a different cause

Too large for comprehending,

Yet always followed by a voice,

Its tone as calm as spring

Saying I had power

Over every single thing.

“SHOW YOURSELF!” I hollered now

“And end this silly game!

“Saying 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

Knock came 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

“Was something you ignored,

“Terror, sickness, climate woes,

“You left outside your door

“You told yourself one person,

“Cannot change the world’s demise,

“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

“These lives from their 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

“Can change the world ahead.”

And here it came, a single word:

“Vote,” the small voice said.

NOTE: Mitch Albom wrote a version of this poem in 1995, modified it for the 2008 elections, and changed it again for 2022.

Contact Mitch Albom: malbom@freepress.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.


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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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