A couple weeks ago, a close friend, who's also an American expat, came to visit. As with any American my husband's recently come across, he immediately cornered her on the global topic du jour, demanding to know: "Have you registered to vote yet?"
After some dodging and jokes, she finally replied with a very fair question: "Does my contribution actually matter?"
As I've previously mentioned, I'm usually more of an independent observer and question-asker when it comes to politics. Until I'm forced to make a choice, I like to absorb others' views, collect information, and watch each candidate's s***show in fascination. But my friend's question stirred something inside me that was planted over 20 years ago. I surprised myself by spiritedly preaching about individuals' contributions at home, at work, and in society, as my brain flashed back to an image from 6th grade...
On the first day of middle school, my homeroom teacher Mrs. Christie had a poster that looked something like this, hung on the back door of her classroom. She took the time on that day to explain its simple meaning: no "little bird" alone can hold up the entire world, but if each one does what it can, a meaningful contribution is actually possible.
Throughout the years, this lesson has stuck with me and is the backbone of a personal philosophy to control whatever is within my sphere of control to make a difference, like:
at home: picking up something I've left sitting around so that a mess doesn't accumulate;
at work: pre-communicating a difficult message to ensure that no one's caught off guard when widespread not-so-great news breaks; or
in society: casting a vote from over 3,000 miles away from my polling station.
Because if the 10 million* Americans living abroad all think this way, we will make a difference.
Don't forget to Vote Y'all!
*10 million is a very rough estimate; the State Department estimate suggests that there are 3 - 8 million Americans living abroad, not including military and government employees stationed overseas.
Top photo from cocokelly