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Lonnette Harrell

Today I received a wonderful email with a story that got me thinking about the impact that one person can have on someone’s life. I want to include the story, share one of my own, and discuss the difference you can make.

Here’s the email story:

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class, walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was
carrying all of his books. 

I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.”

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders, and just went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms, and tripping him so that
he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass, about ten feet from him. He looked up, and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him.

So, I jogged over to him, as he crawled around
looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.
As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.”

He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!”
There was a big smile on his face. (It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.) I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before.

He said he had gone to private school before now. (I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.)

We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football
with my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend, and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle, with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday! ” He just laughed, and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, and that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business, on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had, and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous! Today was one of those days.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech.
So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the real grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks”, he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began,”Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you, that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.”

I just looked at my friend with disbelief, as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker, so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later, and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me, and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable..”

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mom and dad looking at me, and smiling that same grateful smile.
Not until that moment, did I realize it’s depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each others lives, to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.

Well, I wish I knew who to give credit to, for that wonderful story, but it arrived in an email that didn’t have the author’s name. (If you know who wrote it, I’ll be glad to give them credit.)

As you can see, one act of kindness saved a life. A very valuable, wonderful life. That young man was going to commit suicide, if the other student had not reached out to him that day.

Others had already powerfully negatively affected his life, with their unkind words and actions. The things we do and say, so casually, can destroy or save a life.

We tend to think that one person can’t make much difference. I remember a Reader’s Digest story that I read years ago. A man came across a lady throwing starfish back into the ocean, after a huge storm had tossed them on shore. As the man surveyed the hopeless situation of hundreds of starfish lying on the beach, he remarked, “Why are you doing that? It can’t possibly make a difference.”

The lady thought about that statement for a moment, then smiled, and looked at the solitary starfish in her hand, and proudly said, “To this one it will.”

She tossed the lone starfish back into the sea, and continued in her efforts to save the rest–one by one.

That is how it is with the people we come in contact with every single day. Someone is hurting, someone is crying, someone is devastated and thinking of ending it all. Will we have eyes to see them? Or will we walk on by, not wanting to get involved?

Never underestimate the power of one kind word, one compassionate gesture, one smile or hug.

I had a Christian radio program for 9 years on a local station. It was called, Love Notes, and it was a 15 minute show with inspirational/motivational teaching, and a couple of songs that matched the message.

One night, I was at church, when a man walked up and asked, “Are you Lonnette Harrell–the one that does the Love Notes show?”

I smiled and said, “Yes”, expecting to talk about radio a little. But what happened next, I have never forgotten.

The man said, “I was listening to you the other day…with a gun to my head…and something you said…stopped me from pulling the trigger.”

(I never heard another word that he said.) I just threw my arms around him, so thankful that he was standing in front of me, still alive. I am sure that he told me more of the story, but honestly, I never heard it.

Later, I said, “God, I wonder what it was that I said?”

I heard that still small voice that we so often overlook. He said, “You don’t need to know, because then you’d think you saved his life, instead of Me.”

I knew it was true, and I thanked the Lord for giving me the right words to say, at that moment in time, for that man. I surely didn’t know what would save his life, but God did.

The young man in the email story had no idea, that the boy who had been bullied, was going home to kill himself–no doubt in total discouragement after days and days of torment. What if he had not responded? But because he had compassion, and reached out, a life was saved.

If we started viewing everyone that we come in contact with, in light of these stories, perhaps we would change our actions. Maybe we wouldn’t be so fast to walk past a hurting person. Perhaps we would listen more intently when someone is hurting, and be willing to stop our busy lives, and give a hug, or a smile.

Can one person really make a difference? What do you think?

Please view other articles that I have written here:



  1. That is a very good story, I get goosebumps every time I hear it.

    ATP Inc – Do You Need A Website

  2. Very touching story

  3. What a touching story/testimony. I would love to publish this story in our Air Force Safety magazine, The Combat Edge. We often publish resiliency pieces and this one would definitely fit the bill. I’m requesting permission to reprint. Please contact me below. Thanks for the consideration. I’ll await your response.

  4. Hello Lonnette. I believe, “One Person CAN Make a

    I am an American veteran who had hundreds of connections to people on and around a set of two small air bases near Ipswich in 1990s United Kingdom.

    One Friday after work, I decided not to go drinking with friends as I usually did.

    Later that night, as I was driving by this club I saw a friend. As he crossed the street just ahead there was something about him that felt strange. A voice in my head said, “Stop him!”

    As I got closer, I rolled my passenger side window down and yelled in a friendly tone… “Heyyy, where you going?”

    He said, “I don’t have time to talk to you.”

    The voice returned and urged me, “STOP HIM!”

    I emboldened myself and TOLD him, “GET IN THE CAR!” Shoot, he was bigger than me. Yeah, I was scared but I knew that I couldn’t show it.

    After a few minutes, he did as I said. That voice didn’t return to tell me what to do with him. Wow! I didn’t feel threatened. So, I took him to my home off base. We had a few brandys, laughed, and played Super Mario in front of the fireplace, and soon we fell asleep.

    The next morning we both prepared and ate breakfast. Then, I took him to his dormitory.

    A few weeks passed before I thought to ask about him. I learned that he was given an assignment to the U.S. and was gone. We didn’t get to talk about what was going on.

    Nearly a decade later, I was out of the military. While walking on a base in Hampton, VA I heard a familiar voice call my nickname, “J.P.!”. I turned around and smiled because it was “the guy” from England! He ran and hugged tightly.

    He said, “I have something I NEED to tell you that you don’t know about the night you took me to your home!” I listened. He told me, “You broke my mind from a spell of anger like none I have ever experienced in my life.”

    I said, “So, that must have been why that small voice in my head told me – Stop him.”

    He said, “No. That voice had you to stop me because I was on my way to kill my then girlfriend! If you didn’t follow your mind…Jay (sigh) I would be in a totally different situation.”

    Whew! That heavy story wasn’t what I expected from a man I regarded as mild-mannered.

    On a lighter note he got to some mental health counseling and happily reclaimed his mild-mannered stature in life with the new wife and family – they created.

    What I believe now that I didn’t believe back then… GOD used me – a human – to assist in HIS divine intervention.

    So, in answer to your question Lonnette Harrell, “One Person CAN Make A Difference.”

  5. Janice: What an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing it with me! What a difference you made in your friend’s life by listening and responding to the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit.

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