The Power of One

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do.”  -Edward Everett Hale

This sentiment by author Edward Everett Hale has guided many of my steps in life, particularly around volunteerism and non-profit work:  In 1985, I began a long relationship with the Grow Clinic, founded by Dr. Deborah Frank at Boston Medical Center, which serves young children who are underweight and malnourished. I started as a fund-raising volunteer and have remained a member of the committee for the hospital’s annual “Food for Thought” event. I was compelled to join Dr. Frank and her team in their work because I saw with my own eyes the impact of hunger on children the ages of my own children, living 10 miles from my home, suffering from malnutrition. I am keenly aware of the advantages that I enjoy in our country, where not everyone has equal opportunities. At the Grow Clinic, I witnessed how the health and development of small children is compromised because their families lack opportunity and access to the most basic needs.


Over a decade later, I learned from Dr. Frank about the work of Children’s HealthWatch. Their efforts to research the impacts of hunger, unstable housing and other economic hardships on their young patients as a strategy for improving policies spoke to me in such a way that I became an Advisory Board member, and it is here that I have found so much reward.


Serving as an Advisory Board member has both allowed me to work side by side with like-minded professionals who are dedicated to the betterment of child health and outcomes, and to see firsthand how data and research can inform policy on federal, state and local levels. On the state level, I was compelled to become active in Children’s HealthWatch’s efforts to increase the Massachusetts state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) given the health benefits of EITC. I worked with Children’s HealthWatch to craft messages to send to my friends and colleagues, especially those who live in parts of Massachusetts outside the Boston area, requesting their support of EITC. I wrote to my state representative and senator, as did many of my friends. And I have celebrated the victories of the campaign, which has not only successfully ensured access to EITC for survivors of domestic violence (establishing Massachusetts as the first state to implement such a measure), but is on track to increase the state EITC to 30%, doubling the credit since the start of the campaign. On the federal level, I follow closely and seek to engage with Children’s HealthWatch efforts to prevent harmful changes and advocate for improvements to SNAP in the Farm Bill. I had the opportunity last fall to meet with Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland while visiting Children’s HealthWatch’s site in Baltimore, my hometown, and discuss with him the importance of SNAP for child health.


As I talk with colleagues, friends, legislators, and others, it has been invaluable to share thoughtfully designed, well-written, well-researched and evidence-based Children’s HealthWatch briefs and reports. They are not only relevant and timely, but share research and data in such a clear and concise way that they are easy to grasp by a layperson, making it less challenging to create occasions for advocacy. Children’s HealthWatch publications on the health impacts linked to economic hardships for families with children have served as a clarion call in bringing much-needed attention to the very real needs that many in our communities struggle with and have.


Through my work with Children’s HealthWatch, I have made personal and professional connections that have been satisfying and life-affirming, and have been given opportunities to speak with decision and policy makers whose choices affect large swaths of the population, not only here but nationally.


So, you may think that you are only one, but you are one.  You can’t do everything, but you can do something. The something you ought to do, you can do. And that can, and will, make a difference– even if for just one.