Just as the eyes are the windows into the soul, bumper stickers are a glimpse into a driver’s life. Some stickers are clever and others are downright funny, e.g., “what if the hokey pokey really is what it’s all about?” I feel a kinship with the cars supporting the same political candidates and social causes as me, e.g., “go veg,” which may or may not be on my car (ha!). I can do without the ones telling me my afterlife will be fiery because my spiritual path is apparently wrong, which ironically, is not a very spiritual message. There are useful bumper stickers, e.g., “if you can read this, then you are following too closely” and informational bumper stickers, “student driver,” which tell me to have a bit more patience than usual. All of this is entertaining and interesting, but there is one bumper sticker that has become my mantra. “Think Global, Act Local” is how most of us are going to make changes to the inequities and injustices we see all around us. Getting past the poor grammar (should be “Globally” and “Locally”), this bumper sticker correctly states how we can do the most good. Large national or global programs are terrific, but for the majority of us our efforts will be most useful, and the outcomes more lasting, when we set our sights on a smaller scale, locally or individually. Tutoring one child, volunteering at one animal rescue shelter, helping build one house, stuffing envelopes at one non-profit organization, and peacefully protesting one cause are excellent uses of our time. For that child, that animal, that family and that group, you are their guardian angel.
I am a cause person. I have spent my entire adult life fighting “isms.” There have been improvements for some “isms,” and huge steps backwards for others. Racism is all too alive and well even though we have people of color in all segments of society. Sexism is pervasive in the United States and deadly in parts of the world even though women have made strides in public and private pursuits. Anti-Semitism is on the upswing globally, with attacks coming from foreign governments and groups, to events at supposedly enlightened American college campuses. Homophobia, while still prevalent in much of the United States, has met its match in many state marriage equality laws, although being gay is still illegal or even a capital crime in too much of the world. Speciesism, the notion that humans are morally superior to other animals, results in the atrocious abuse and murder of billions of animals annually, most of them on industrial farms where they never see the sky, feel the grass below them, or are even able to move. Huge problems, huge numbers of beings affected, huge struggles. What can one person do?
LOTS! No one can single-handedly fix all of these challenges, but each of us can take a piece. Imagine our aggregate success if we all took one action daily, weekly, or even monthly to lend a helping hand or give a voice to the marginalized. Volunteer, write a letter, sign a petition, make a phone call, spread the word on social media. No action is too small.
My coaching practice and speaking pursuits focus on women and minority groups who have been historically sidelined from the halls of power. It warms my heart when I see a client soar in his or her chosen pursuit. Nothing revs me up more than a great discussion with an audience eager to learn pointers on how to achieve their next steps despite entrenched obstacles. Small victories add up over time. The challenges are global, but each local (or individual) success is one sliver of the pie of social dignity and opportunity for all of us.
I will continue to be entertained by bumper stickers, knowing which car has an honors student, which vacationed at a beach, and which climbed some very high peak. I will chuckle at “Energizer bunny arrested, charged with battery” and “Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow.” But I will always go back to the one bumper sticker that has true meaning for me and gives me hope. I will continue to think globally and act locally. I look forward to seeing you on this road to social change and, along the way, smiling at your bumper stickers.