“Think globally, act locally.” In our acronym, soundbyte-world, I thought I’d try that out as a reminder to us all. Especially me. “Think globally” is my default setting and I can turn the simple smallest experience— a kid learning to skip in music class, a delicious soup with perfectly blended ingredients, a game with beanbags balanced on the head— into a formula for world peace and harmony. I can critique whole civilizations with a turn of a phrase, try to reveal to the million non-readers of this Blog what they might consider to live with more happiness, kindness and compassion, draw invisible lines against insidious political forces that I vow not to cross.
But in the past two weeks ago, I took part in two delightful local actions regarding Golden Gate Park, the big backyard a half-block from my house that I enjoy daily while someone else takes care of it. The first was a neighborhood work-day at Kezar Triangle, the little spot of park that is the entrance to the grander paradise that I walk through every day. Mostly it is a gathering spot for dog-owners, so I don’t actually hang out there much, but appreciate it as a lovely doorway into my daily walk or bike ride.
I’m proud to report that my wife Karen independently conceived of, organized and co-led with a Park gardener the event and got some 25 volunteers working for three hours to take care of and help beautify this tiny spot of land. The work was mostly picking up litter, weeding, moving mulch, breaking down an outworn fence and such. Simple tasks without dramatic effect, but left the space at the end just a little bit better than it was at the beginning. While promoting good neighbor relations and giving my daughter Talia and I a new way to talk while we weeded. Now when I pass through, I can see the tiny footprints of our helping out.
Then on Saturday, another neighbor organized a rally to keep JFK Drive in the park car-free. This spot of road has long been car-free on Sundays, but during the pandemic, closed every day of the week and was a constant river of walkers, joggers, roller-bladers, bikers, skateboarders and beyond. Now the City Supervisors are considering re-opening it to cars and with my neighbor’s efforts, some two to three hundred people gathered to let it be known “No, thank you. We prefer it as it is.” There were some Chinese Lion Dancers, two supervisors and others who spoke and at the end of the speeches, as we got ready to walk, I led the group in a song I made up for the occasion. (I had met this neighbor when I created the Pandemic Neighborhood Sing that I continued for two years, so she had suggested that I create a song for the rally). The whole event was festive, again an opportunity to build community and an invitation to come out of the pandemic with renewed determination to continue the things we all enjoyed— less car traffic, more walking or other self-propelled transportation, more time out in the park with trees and grass and cawing crows.
The threat of climate change, of encroaching fascism, of an ongoing pandemic, is an enormous Goliath that few of us little Davids have the capacity or strength or strategy to bring down. But to pull out some weeds and walk to keep a road without cars, that I can do. And if thousands or millions or billions commit to simple local acts based on community and stewardship and intelligent education, why, they can add up to something enormous that can meet the giant with sufficient strength. TGAL, people!
PS My little song below, sung as an echo with the group:
1) I don’t know, but I heard some say (group echoes each line)
They want cars back on JFK
So we are gathered here today
To stand together and say “No way!”
CHORUS:And so we’ve come together, you, you and me
To keep JFK (clap) car-free!
To keep JFK (clap) car-free!
2) We love this space to take a walk
And hear each other when we talk
We love this road to ride our bike
Skateboard, roller blade, take a hike.
3) We’re using too much fossil fuels
That’s what we teach the kids in schools.
So here’s a chance to mean what we say
Keep a car-free JFK.