Monday's Musings - Can One Person Really Make a Difference in this World?

by Mary Denman
Twitter: @MaryDenman
Instagram: @MaryFDenman

Topiaries in Bishopville, SC 
Recently, I thought about the question, "Can one person really make a difference in this world?" 

Or, more personally, "Can I make a difference in this world?"

Not long ago, I found myself in the small town of Bishopville, SC. We had dropped our son off at a Math and Science Camp and were headed out when my husband and I noticed topiaries down the median of the main street in town. Interesting, we thought. A bit unusual. But interesting.

Then, I saw a name on a sign as we drove out of the town. Pearl. 

I asked my husband to turn around and go back to the side road with the sign. I couldn't believe it. We had just driven by the road where Pearl Fryar lives. 

I was so excited. 

Huge Topiaries in Pearl Fryar's garden 
You see, when we moved to South Carolina years ago, I saw a special on our Public TV station about a man named Pearl. The story was very moving and powerful. I had wanted to go see his topiary garden but didn't know where it was. 

So imagine my delight when we found ourselves pulling up to his home to tour the gardens! 

Pearl's signature tree
Here's part of Pearl's story. Many years ago, when there was still a lot of racial tension in the deep south, Pearl, who is an African American, faced opposition to buying a house in a white neighborhood. 

One of the comments made was that "black men don't keep up their yards."

This is where the story takes off. 

Pearl, instead of growing angry or bitter by the comment, set about to create a work of art in his yard. 

He says he got reject plants from the nurseries, or pulled plants out of the compost pile. His goal was to get "Yard of the Month", to show people that he could maintain his yard. He did this by creating topiaries all over his property. Eventually, he succeeded in winning the honor of "Yard of the Month" from the town.

"Hate Hurts" artwork by Pearl Fryar

You have to understand that Pearl had no gardening experience when he started. He had a few minute lesson with some plants he bought, but then learned as he went. What exists today is the result of years and years of hard work. And still is hard work.

He creates artwork out of "junk" and maintains his huge property, continuing to prune and trim and shape the living artwork. 

Did he set out to change the world? It seems he set out to show that he could maintain his yard, to remove a stereotype. To be the "Yard of the Month". He created the entire garden with hard work and grace. 

A neighbor's yard, full of topiaries

But look at the impact he's had. 

Up and down his street, others followed suit and have created more whimsical yards. His work is why the town has topiaries down the median. 

Another neighbor's yard, full of topiaries
He has been featured internationally and domestically, on television, in print and even had a movie made about him: A Man Named Pearl. He is a goodwill ambassador for the town. 

What started as a goal of getting yard of the month, turned into something so much bigger. He found his passion and went with it. As his love and plants grew, more and more people were curious and attracted to come see what he had done. 

His story has inspired many. Including me! 

Yet another yard on Pearl's street
So it brings me back to the question, can one person make a difference in this world? 


But it may not be that we set out to do it. God may open a door here and there. Nudging us in a direction. 

When we're doing what God created us to do, we have a passion when we do it. And that passion speaks loudly. God can use that to bless others, to inspire others. 

That's the kind of difference I want to make. 

When have you been able to make a difference in other's lives? Do you see a pattern in your life of God directing you where he wants to you go, to follow your dreams and passions? 

I'd love to hear from you about that! 


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Potbelly Fountain at Pearl's



  1. Ooh! I didn't know Bishopville was that close! Next summer, I'm going to show my kids the movie, A Man Named Pearl, and then I'm going to take them for a tour of his gardens. What an awesome opportunity! Thanks for sharing this, Mary!

    1. His place is so neat. We were thrilled to find it. Can you say road trip?? :)

  2. When I worked at Johnson Space Center we had to show our badges to the guard at the gate. All of them just looked at it and nodded us through. One guard would greet each person with a cheery "Good morning," "Have a great day," or "So glad to see you." we all loved him. He set the tone for the whole day. As you can imagine, there was always a long line of cars at his gate. With a smile and a few words he made each of us feel special.

    1. Sherry, that's a great example of one person making a difference! A small act of kindness can go a long way, can't it?