I have been a professional athlete for years now, but nothing has been more important to me than making sure I inspire the next generation of children to know that they have the power to make a difference in the world. What I wish for every child, everywhere is the opportunity to know they can make a difference. We get so caught up by the great problems of the world that it’s difficult to feel our own influence — that our own abilities and efforts won’t have an impact or create change. But I have seen firsthand how much of a difference just one person can make.
My mother was a teacher for 31 years. Growing up, I lived with just her and my siblings. It was incredible to watch her work every day to inspire young people to make a difference. She didn’t get paid a lot, but it wasn’t about the money for her. She took every opportunity she could to shape and mold her students to be positive, contributing members of their communities. She didn’t just think about how her students were acting within the classroom walls, she considered who they were outside of school. When she retired, I had the opportunity to meet a number of her former students and they all credited her for helping them go down a positive path.
I have tried to do the same in my life. To me, it is inexcusable to accept that depending on the zip code you were born in, or the country you live in, your destiny is already pre-determined by the level of access you have to health care. I serve as a Nothing But Nets ambassador because it shouldn’t matter where you are born — no child should die from a mosquito bite. I know that even with just a little help, I can help kids across the globe with an opportunity to live another day and have another birthday just by sending a bed net and protecting them from malaria.
Imagine that — something as simple as sending a bed net can protect a child from a deadly, but preventable disease.
As a professional basketball player, I’m blessed to have a public platform. It is very important to me to give back — just as my mother taught me to do. I have also created camps to teach kids skills both on and off the court — in character, leadership, and teamwork.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to make a difference. As a father of two, I see how much of an impression I can have on my children. My wife and I both have to show our children how to be the change we want to see in the world. How we invest in our children will have an enormous impact and create ripple effects throughout society in a positive way if we teach them the power they have to change the world.
In small ways, we can all make a difference.
This post originally appeared on GlobalMomsRelay.org
The Global Moms Relay was created by the United Nations Foundation and Johnson & Johnson with support from BabyCenter, Global Citizen, Fatherly and Charity Miles, to help improve the lives of families around the globe. Share this post with the hashtags #GlobalMom and #JNJ, and visit GlobalMomsRelay.org to learn more.
You can also use the Donate A Photo* app and Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 when you upload a photo for Girl Up, U.S. Fund for UNICEF or Nothing But Nets, up to $150,000. You can help make a difference in seconds with the click of your mouse or snap of your smart phone.
* via the Donate A Photo app for iOS and Android. Johnson & Johnson has curated a list of trusted causes, and you can donate a photo to one cause, once a day. Each cause will appear in the app until it reaches its goal, or the donation period ends. If the goal isn’t reached, the cause will still get a minimum donation.