This morning, like most mornings, I ran inland for roughly an hour. It is part of my daily ritual, providing me time to reflect, to meditate, and, of course, to sweat.
My cool-down walk along the shores of Lake Michigan is my treat to myself. My heart sings when I see this magnificent body of fresh water, touch its soft white sand beaches that stretch for miles, and look up at the towering dunes steadied by strong, tall maples, oaks, and pine trees. This is sacred space.
Yet, scientists say it is in danger—the ecosystem of the Great Lakes threatened with irreversible damage if something is not done immediately. I shake my head in disbelief. How could this happen? More importantly, how do we reverse the slide?
The challenges facing the Great Lakes are daunting, so overwhelming it is easy to feel powerless as an individual. I have lived my adult life in corporate America, most recently in a position reporting to the CEO of one of the largest healthcare manufacturers in the world. I know nothing about getting involved as an individual—without the backing of a $10 billion corporation and the support of millions of people.
Even so, I know I cannot remain silent. While I have traveled to places of spectacular beauty, none touch me like the Great Lakes. In my heart, these waters are home.
So, I talk about the Great Lakes and all I am learning.
In the process, I have discovered I am not alone in my passion for protecting these great waters. Neighbors, family, friends—even those who live outside the region—are interested in understanding the past decisions that have brought us to this tipping point and the tradeoffs needed in finding solutions. Almost always, the first question someone asks me is: “What can I do?”
It is the same question I ask myself during my early morning runs. Over the years, I have found if I can still the constant chatter of my mind as I run in the first light of sunrise, answers to the toughest questions often surface.
I ask, “What can I do to protect these waters I love?” The answer seems obvious. Get educated, energized, and engaged. No problem with the first two. It is engagement that holds the most uncertainty.
“You are responsible for your efforts on this earth, not necessarily the results,” a friend tells me.
And so I have embarked on a journey of faith, taking one step at a time. For me, the first step is to begin writing.
First published in 2006 and read in the opening session of the 2006 Healing Our Waters--Great Lakes Coalition conference in Cleveland, this essay remains one of my favorites. What I did not realize at the time was that I would meet hundreds of others willing to walk with me, guide me, inspire me to greatness. Such was the case when I met 4th grade teachers Kathy Nemeth and Donna Atman. Together, with forty-two creative, passionate, and determined, students, we influenced the policy of an entire school system, eliminating the release of balloons at all Quincy school functions.
If you are in the area, please join us Saturday, September 22nd at 10:00 a.m. at the Barnes and Noble store in Holland, MI as we celebrate what it means to make a difference!
McKSchmidt Questions: Week 7
A Grassroots Effort to Prioritize Our Water
Florida, Tennessee, and Virginia can forbid mass balloon discharges, then why not Michigan and other Great Lakes states?
Why not find other ways to celebrate, honor, or grieve than littering the planet?
If you didn’t contact your representatives last week, will you consider doing so this week?
Question: Will you introduce and prioritize legislation that will eliminate the mass release of balloons littering our lakes, beaches, land, and skies?
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