The Talmud says that "whosoever destroys a single soul ... Scripture imputes to him as though he had destroyed a complete world; and whosoever preserves a single soul ... Scripture ascribes to him as though he had preserved a complete world."
I was thinking of this in regards to the passing of Frank Kameny, who fought to secure the rights of gay people over half a century ago. Kameny was born May 21, 1925 and was working as an astronomer for the federal government in the 1950s when he was dismissed from his job, simply for being gay. Kameny fought his dismissal all the way to the Supreme Court, and lost -- but he fought, at a time when very few people dared fight.
Kameny helped found the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization, and in 1965 he helped organize a picket line outside the White House, protesting anti-gay laws in the United States.
Kameny's battles were not just for his rights, nor only for the rights of his friends, but for the rights of all who came after him.
Give that some thought. Consider what that means.
When you take a stand for justice, liberty and human rights, you are doing so not just for yourself but for all those who come after you. Generations to come may live a better life because of the battles we fight today.
Similarly, those who battle for inequality of rights, injustice and bigotry are not merely attempting to inflict harm upon those alive today, but also upon all those who will follow them.
Harvey Milk once urged his supporters to fight on "because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that's what this is all about. It's not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power -- it's about giving those young people out there in Altoona, Pennsylvania, hope. You gotta give them hope."
Harvey should have given more notice to the Talmud. The hope he was speaking about was not just for that young person in Altoona in 1977 but the young person out there in 2011, 2058, 2102, and so on.
Each act of justice and kindness helps change the stream of human history, the way that rivers change the landscape.
The individual actions of drops of water are barely noticed, but they continue to etch into the rocks and change the entire course of that river.
What we fight for today lives on long after we are dust. The men and women who fought to abolish slavery in this land did not just liberate the slaves of the Confederacy during the Civil War; they liberated their unborn children, grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren for generations to come.
The world becomes a different place because of each drop that we contribute to it. Every act of justice matters, just as every act of injustice matters. These small things create the world and create the future.
Frank Kameny fought for a just world; go and do likewise. And, in the doing, contemplate how the justice you secure today is passed on to multiple generations that follow. What can one person do? He or she can save an entire world.