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There are two kinds of power: (1) power over people; and (2) power to help people. It is easy to think of examples of the first kind of power, and mainstream society encourages people to seek out that kind of power. Of course, power over people is a scarce resource and it has a tendency to corrupt: hence the slogan, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

In contrast, the second kind of power—to help people—is in abundant supply: almost every individual in the world has the power to help others, often in small ways, and occasionally in bigger ways. Unfortunately, the power to help people is often overlooked. This is a great shame, because some of the most inspiring people in history have been those who have used their power to help others to great effect: for example, Florence Nightingale, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Part-way through this book project, another example of the power to help people made headlines. In 2007, a horse-riding accident had left Claire Lomas paralysed from the chest down. In 2012, a robotic suit enabled her to walk, very slowly, with crutches. So she entered the London City Marathon to raise money for research into spinal injuries. It took her 16 days to complete the 26.2 mile course. That’s a average walking speed of about 1.6 miles (2.6 KM) per day. Her unusual journey was reported in the news, touched the hearts of many, and, so far, has raised close to £200,000 for charity. If somebody who is paralysed from the chest down can do something so impressive to help others, then it emphasises that we all have the power to help others.

We want our children to grow up knowing that, regardless of how rich or poor they are, and no matter what obstacles they might face in life, they have the power to help others, and for them to be inspired to use that power. So, when our first child, Toby, was born, we asked well-wishers to not send us materialistic gifts, but rather to write Toby a letter explaining how they use their power to make the world a better place—by helping people, animals or the environment.

This anthology is a collection of the letters we have received so far. The request for letters to Toby does not have a deadline. If you read this anthology and decide that you would like the write a letter, then please do so, and email your letter, with a subject line of “Letter to Toby”, to or We will update this anthology from time to time, to include additional letters we receive.

Ciaran and Bianca McHale
27 May 2012

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