Change Catalysts Everywhere

This quote, paraphrased from a TED talk given by Halla Tomasdottir in 2010, captivates me still.

“We must fight the urge to rebuild the systems that have failed us.”

I puffy heart Halla Tomasdottir. She’s a mom. She has a solid career in business and is an entrepreneur, and ran for president of Iceland in 2016 (she came in 2nd).  We’re also just 4 days apart in age. LIBRA POWER.

Here’s the first of her TED talks. It’s pretty badass.

Here’s the second, where she talks about the need for more women to run for office.

So, the quote above – that’s been up on our fridge, scrawled on a piece of scratch paper in my handwriting, since the day I watched her first TED talk. I’ve seen that piece of paper every day, many times a day, for over seven years. I think about her words even when I’m not looking in the refrigerator – when I’m puzzling over something dumb-yet-totally-preventable happening out in the world, in my own personal day-to-day, at work, etc. And her words resonate especially deeply with me now, as we’re seeing the dismal, messy unwinding of so many systems – overwhelmingly male-created and dominated – that have failed us all, especially women. Media. Entertainment. Finance. Politics. Higher education. Technology. Food.

A few weeks ago, that piece of paper came out from under the magnet holding it to the fridge, and as I picked it up from the floor I thought it might be cool to get a photo, post it to Instagram, and tag Halla Tomasdottir while I was at it. So that’s exactly what I did.

Imagine my delight when I saw this response.
I’m Team Halla. What about taking her words as a directive?

CHANGE CATALYSTS EVERYWHERE. 

Here are a couple of places to start. Leave your ideas for changing catalysts everywhere in the comments!

She Should Run

She’s the Ticket

Come Out to Play

I’m a massive fan of Meadowbrook Park, a prairie preserve maintained tirelessly by the Urbana Park District. Its sculpture installations are eternally absorbing. [The header photo was taken there about 5 years ago, at the park’s south end.] I gardened at Meadowbrook’s organic garden plots in the early 2000s. I’ve walked and skated and even run its trails hundreds of times – basically, it’s where I go when it’s time to get outside someplace that isn’t the backyard. So. As it is not often sunny and sixty degrees in December (and, for the record, it shouldn’t be), I thought perhaps it’d be a great day to go see some dogs and walk the trails and survey the now-beige prairie from my favorite vantage points.

I decided instead, at the last minute, to walk my neighborhood – to see it and to be seen in it – because it feels a bit lonely.

[The neighborhood has changed with the change in season, like it does. People have moved away and others have arrived. There have been conflicts, some unresolved. A new email list has sown some seeds of WTF, but one of the Facebook groups is still politely active. People (including us) seem too busy to gather often; over-the-fence chats have waned with the daylight. Our neighbor’s son, an engaging and persistent 5 year-old given to patrolling our street in this Halloween’s police officer costume, sometimes tickets the adults he sees.]

Anyway – I saw some things.

Leaf art on Anderson.
Lara and Phil’s fence.
Roger Ebert grew up in my neighborhood.
This lady was EXTREMELY friendly.

[NOT PICTURED: Hundred of squirrels, an awesome front door, and actual boughs of holly]

What I didn’t see: human beings. There were a few people out wrangling leaves into bags (Leaves into bags! In DECEMBER!), but only one even looked up as I passed. A young woman who has been doing epic work on her house was toiling away on its exterior, so I told her how inspiring it’s been to watch her progress. She smiled and said, “Well, thank you!” A young man walked down the next street, conversing earnestly with someone about his impending return to Eugene – Oregon, I assume. A couple blocks over, I asked a gentleman sitting on his front porch if it was OK if I cut through a small bit of his yard to get to the alley. He laughed and said, “Of course.” Then, as I started trekking through, “Thanks for asking!” As I rolled back onto my street, I saw my neighbors, The Bryans, and encouraged their dogs into bad behavior as we chatted about the unsettled feeling one has when one is putting up holiday lights in shirtsleeves.

That was it, though. No other people. Was everyone out at Meadowbrook? Shopping? Inside, watching sports? Where are we these days? Suddenly my neighbor 5 year-old’s desire to ticket the people he sees made all the sense. It’s genius! It’s about visibility and accountability and it makes me think we are just not either of those things enough.

I’m putting myself on a twice-weekly posting schedule. We’ll see how it goes.