Monday's Musings: Can One Person Make a Difference?

by Mary Denman  @MaryDenman

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 couldn't believe it. We had just driven by the road where Pearl Fryar lives. 

We turned around. 

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! 

Why was what he did so amazing?

Pearl's signature tree
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 gets interesting. 

Pearl, instead of growing angry or bitter by the comment, set about to create works 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" and to show people that he could maintain his yard. He did this by creating topiaries all over his property. 

"Hate Hurts" artwork by Pearl Fryar
Eventually, he succeeded in winning the honor of "Yard of the Month" from the town.

You have to understand that Pearl had no formal gardening experience when he began. He received a brief lesson from a gardening center when he bought some plants, but then learned the rest as he went. 

What exists today is the result of years and years of 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. 

Look at the impact he's had. 

A neighbor's yard, full of topiaries
Up and down his street, others followed suit and have created whimsical yards. 

His work is why the town has topiaries down the median. 

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. 

Another neighbor's yard, full of topiaries
What started as a goal of getting yard of the month, turned into something so much bigger. 

Pearl 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! 

So it brings me back to the question, can one person make a difference in this world? 


Yet another yard on Pearl's street
We may not set out to change the world. But God may open a door here and there. Nudging us in a particular 

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.

How about you? 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? 


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  1. What a wonderful article, Mary - especially for everyone who wonders if they can make a difference. This touched my heart.

    1. I'm glad Cynthia! :) Pearl may not have set out to change a town....but he did!

  2. I've been pondering on this topic. I think dreams don't always come true in the way that we imagined, but we must press on and trust God. This story is very moving. Thanks for sharing! My weekend feature: Sober Living...

    1. You're welcome Tina! I was so excited to get to visit in person and see the fruit of his labor!

  3. Such a nice impact - it drew neighbors together in a fun way.
    Nice shots.
    Thanks for linking up at

    1. It did Sue! He turned people's opinion around for sure!