Small Beginnings/Big Changes.
Small Beginnings/Big Changes. Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”. In the Bible Paul encourages Timothy by saying “Let no one despise you for your youth, but be an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”. Jesus talked about the mustard seed in Matthew, saying “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.” And in Zechariah it also says “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”
In the journey of life, things happen that cause change. Sometimes this change can start out quite small but end up changing the world, like something beginning with C and ending with 19. I don’t want to cover any ground on this topic, however. Instead, I’d like to focus on positive change.
Boyan Slat was scuba diving on a reef one day when he was 16 and was disappointed at the amount of rubbish clogging up the waterways. He asked himself – why can’t we do something about this? Why can’t we clean this up? Initially, most people’s reactions to this were quite negative and along the lines of ‘it’s not possible’ and ‘unfortunately, that’s just the way things are’. Thankfully, though, Boyan decided not to give up and continued pondering the conundrum. He came up with initial plans when he was 16 and at school. By the time he was 18 he had invented a system for capturing waste in rivers before it even hit the ocean. At 18 he founded an environmental group called The Ocean Cleanup. Its purpose was to continue developing and deploying this system. At age 25, Boyan announced ‘The Interceptor’ (cool name) – an affordable, autonomous and self-sustained device that would capture huge amounts of waste in some of the worst parts of the world.
Now, why am I telling you about a Dutch inventor that made something really cool? Well, what stood out to me when I heard this story was Boyan’s age. He was only 16 when he decided that he could make a change. When he decided that he wasn’t too young to do anything about a big problem he saw before his eyes. When he decided to start with a small beginning – a high school project that proposed to clean up rubbish from waterways. Boyan’s small beginning is now cleaning up 50+ tons of rubbish every day – with a goal to cleaning 90% of the world’s plastic rubbish within the next 20 years. I’m sure you’d agree that this small initiative by a 16 year old is now having quite a profound impact on the world.
Boyan’s age of deciding to make change at 16 is quite a similar age to many of our senior students. You are each in the formative years of life, and while it might not have hit home yet – you are becoming young adults in your own individual ways. It is a time to begin standing up as the unique individual that God has made you to be and embrace the changes and challenges of life with a positive mindset. If I can encourage you towards one key thought – it’s to not underestimate yourself! Don’t sell yourself short and think that your ‘small beginning’ cannot have a ‘big change’. This could be as simple as a smile or a chat with a friend in need, or thanking your teacher, or pursuing an idea, or simply leading by example and allowing God’s light to shine through you.
I’ve already seen each of you take part in initiatives like this throughout the term in the Pastoral Program. You each participated towards making a difference in the local communities and beyond. Some of you planted veggie patches and trees, some of you helped clean up the College and initiated recycling programs, some of you made fun games to add some positivity to primary classes and some of you worked together to host a Makers Market that raised $2,200 towards Hope Street and the African Aids Foundation. Just like the planting of a small tree or the small beginning of Boyan’s idea – your actions can have a profound and positive impact on those around you. Your collective group has taken small ideas and turned them into meaningful and impactful contributions towards those around you.
I’d like to remind you not to discredit the impact of small things that you do, whether good or bad, and to encourage you to focus on positive initiatives and consider the big change that can come from humble beginnings. Go beyond just being the change that ‘you’ want to see, and leave room for the change that God wants to do in your life. I love the imagery of the mustard tree because it is able to benefit those around it as well. So, do not despise the small beginnings of wherever you are in life – for God rejoices to see the work begin and He wants to strengthen you to become the unique person that He has made you to be.
Mr T. van Netten – Senior Formal Assembly Speech 2020