Have you ever heard of Maurice Hillerman?
Of course not. But Maurice Hillerman was a microbiologist who developed vaccines for measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, chicken pox, meningitis, pneumonia, a certain type of influenza, and many others.
Hillerman is credited for saving more lives than any other scientist of the 20th century, and you and I have never heard of him.
How about Witold Pelecki?
Witold Pelecki volunteered to be put in Auschwitz when no one knew for sure what Nazi Germany was doing in the now-infamous death camp.
What about James Harrison of Australia?
Nope, never heard of him.
At the age of 14, Harrison needed chest surgery which required 13 liters of blood to save his life. Afterwards, he vowed to donate blood regularly when he reached the age of 18—which he did. Shortly after he began donating, it was discovered that his blood contained an extremely rare antibody which is the only known cure for treating Rhesus disease in unborn children. He has donated blood 1077 times and, as a result, has saved the lives of nearly 2.4 million children.
What about this guy, named Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov?
Not a chance.
On October 27, 1962 during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a Russian nuclear submarine was surrounded by a fleet of US destroyers—which they could have easily wiped out with their nuclear weapons. However, Russian military protocol required a unanimous vote of all three top officers to use those nukes. It was Arkhipov, a mere second-in-command, who opposed use of the nuclear weapons and persuaded the other two officers to surface and give in to the US demands.
If not for Arkhipov’s single vote, the use of that nuclear weapon would have almost certainly led to WWIII and the death of half the population of the entire world.
While we often think of the George Washingtons and the Adolph Hitlers of this world as having the biggest impacts on the history of the world, normal every-day people just doing their jobs or just being who they are can have enormous, world-changing impacts.
How about Connie Fevold?
Well, I don’t expect anyone to know who that it is, because she was my eighth-grade English teacher.
You see, Connie Fevold encouraged me to write and helped me to believe that someone like you might someday actually want to read the words God gave me to put on a page.
So, even though you have never met her and you didn’t even know she existed until you just read that last sentence, she is having an impact on your life right now.
The point is, each and every one of us has an impact on each and every one of the rest of us, even if we are not microbiologists, or undercover POW’s, or have a rare blood antigen, or are officers on a nuclear submarine.
Our lives do matter and they do make a difference and they do change other people’s lives in ways that we can never know or understand at the time we are doing them. And, those impacts ripple and ebb and flow and change lives, not just in the here and now, but possibly across generations.
That’s why we are told to be salt and light.
That’s why we are told to love each other.
Need I remind you that the single biggest impact of any single life on all of humanity in all the history of humanity was by an unheard-of nobody son of a carpenter from Nazareth?
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:32 ESV
(Much of the information on this page came from https://www.quora.com/Who-are-some-little-known-people-that-changed-the-world .)