changing the world, one person at a time


I meant to just take a funny picture of a no littering sign found on the ground next to a lot of other garbage, but after snapping the photo, Henry said, “One sign can’t change the whole world.” On our walk to the subway, we talked about the way these things might actually make a difference. I see the sign and thow my trash in a trash can instead of the ground, someone else sees me do that and does the same, people see that person and do the same, another person sees that sign and does the same, and so on. One sign isn’t going to change the world, but it spreads awareness — and Henry has a bit of experience with “spreading the message.”

Deep conversation with a five-year-old so early in the morning, and it changed the rest of my day.

I’ve been struggling with some of my readings for a class I’m taking in grad school because the picture they paint of the educational landscape… standards and testing and technology adoption… is so bleak, yet they always end in a “this change can start with you” sort of message. I’m a big believer in what a small group of committed people can do (see here, here, here, and here), but these readings are absolutely sucking the life out me. But maybe I need to step back a bit and think about what works 

One person can make a difference. I may be the only person at my school (I’m not, but go with it) who wants to change Thing X. I may not have any other allies in the building, but I do at another school. We’re both making changes from our roles and connecting to discuss and plan Thing X things with some others — instead of having everyone in the one silo in complete agreement, we’ve networked the whole movement and there are pockets of Thing X reforners at schools across the country. This is real change — this decentralized network of believers can make something substantial happen.

This sign is going to stay with me for a while — and it might even affect my littering habits. (Just kidding — I don’t litter. It has something to do with the clip below, an anti-littering subway ad from the 70s.) I won’t change the world, but I can at least hope to inspire a few others who will inspire a few others who wlll inspire…

It pays to be open to and pay attention to the signs around us — you never know when you’ll get inspired.