Tuesday, May 09, 2006

think globally, act locally

The line "Think Globally, Act Locally" comes from the 1970s. It appears to have originated with early efforts at environmental consciousness. The point was that people could help with the monumental task of preserving (or rehabilitating) Planet Earth by paying attention to the elements of their local ecologies. If you want to help with the big problem, plant a tree. Don't waste resources. Recycle.

The point about helping with big problems by paying attention to your own little corner of the world made so much sense with environmental concerns that the same phrase has been applied to countless other things.

One of the more famous of these adaptations was made by Mother Teresa. When she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she was subjected to the inevitable press interviews. In one, she was asked, "What can we do to promote world peace?" Her brilliant reply had six words: "Go home and love your family."

The diminutive nun who left her post at a Roman Catholic girls school in Calcutta to minister to the poorest of the poor in that city's slums was surely right. While "world peace" is a global issue that no single person can resolve, every person who learns to love and be loved in a family unit is one less insecure and angry soul. One less person inclined to lash out and hurt someone else. One less human being willing to see others suffer without taking action to help them.

Is your workplace unpleasant? Tense? A hostile environment? Maybe the ultimate answer is to get out of there and find a job elsewhere. But first try to make it a healthier place by smiling more and being kind. Show little courtesies to the people around you. Be respectful. Refuse to get caught up in negative, critical conversations. Perhaps others will catch on.

What about your church? Been there long enough and served on enough committees that you know how deficient it is? Think this or that staff person needs to go? See the flaws in one of its key leaders? Find something to affirm. When anyone does a good job, compliment her or him. Let go of the petty stuff you've been noticing that you wish could be different. Love covers a multitude of sins.

Or is the problem at home? Arguing? Finding fault? Spying out "greener pastures"? Try taking a flower home tonight or cooking a favorite meal. Go for a walk. If you have young children, suggest an outing to the park swings. If they're older, just ask them about their day. To love people is to pay attention to them

Want to change the world? Now you know where to start.

Reprinted from Rubel Shelly's FAX of Life.