What I think about when I run

Hopefully by now, you’ve heard the news, that around 300 girls in Nigeria were abducted from their boarding school. The group responsible is opposed to all forms of Western education, and finds a particular distaste for educating girls. The Nigerian government was slow to act as was the international community until the story found some traction, particularly through the graces of social media. (See the hashtag #bringbackourgirls).

bringbackourgirlsI’ve been thinking about those girls on my long runs. What were they studying? What were their most pressing needs? What were their most exciting dreams? They were getting the tools they needed — education — to give them an opportunity to control their own life’s journey. Would they be able to reclaim authorship of their life story once found and rescued? (And in my hopeful mind they will be rescued.) As is normal on my long runs, my mind wanders and it took a turn to thinking about action.

There is a fundamental human right in this story — girls should be able to go to school and not fear being kidnapped and sold as a bride. The words sound almost silly to those of us who see education and safety as a given, not a struggle. But the horror of the event, and the slow response from people in charge, have started an international movement. #bringourgirlsback

There are plenty of ways to get involved, spelled out by Girl Rising — from helping to raise awareness, to signing an online petition to donating to organizations which focus on bringing education to girls in Nigeria. All worthy of your time and consideration. And all things, for the record, I have personally supported.

As my long run continued so did my wandering mind which suddenly shouted out the phrase, “Think globally, act locally!”

The kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigeria is a crisis situation. It needs immediate action along with a variety of long-term solutions. Public mobilization is important. Leaders respond to public pressure. More importantly, it helps to raise awareness and general social consciousness. It reinforces and amplifies social justice movements that seek to insure girls and women are treated as human beings, not property, and are given the skills and opportunity to determine their own path in life.

But how long will that raised level of social awareness last?

My hope is for longer than the story captures the attention of cable news.

And my hope is that it inspires people to look at what they can do locally. Because there are women and girls in our own towns who need someone to have their backs. They’re trying to create their own life story, too. Many of them are in need of assistance — education, financial literacy, health literacy — to develop the confidence they need to stand on their own.

It’s an issue that personally led me to become involved with Carolyn’s House — an organization in Niagara Falls, N.Y. which provides housing and other services to homeless women and their children. To me, if I care about what’s happened to the girls in Nigeria, I should also care about what’s happening to the women who live down the street. The global events inspire me to act locally. It may not be a big action, but the combination of the action and the intention makes an impact. And a series of small impacts can usher in one big boom of change.

And that’s what I thought about on my long run.

Want to help women and children at Carolyn’s House? I’m racing Ironman 70.3 Princeton in September to raise money for their programs. Please donate to the cause!

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