I think I figured out what’s wrong with the world. It came to me in a sign this past weekend while riding my bike through Massachusetts. It wasn’t a spiritual awakening or a vision of the Virgin Mary in my french toast. Nothing like that. Just a sign. An actual street sign. It read:
“Please Make an Effort to Drive Safely”
It doesn’t seem like much. Certainly not worthy of being at the top of the list of things that need to be fixed in this world. Afterall, it was just a street sign. A pretty nice one as far as street signs go. But a street sign nonetheless.
But that doesn’t matter. It’s not about the sign. It’s not even about the words on the sign. It’s about their meaning.
Make an Effort
We as a society have gotten to the point where all we expect from you is the bare minimum. We don’t think you are capable of much more. We’re afraid to challenge you. We’re afraid to push you. We’re afraid to offend you. And we’re afraid to ask more of you.
So instead, we gently request that you be willing to make an effort. And that is enough. No more. No less. In fact, how about we just change the sign to read:
“If it’s not too much trouble, see if you could get home without killing someone.”
That’s what we really mean, isn’t it? Anything more than that would be an over achievement.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
But it’s not your fault. You are only doing what is being asked of you. What little we expect of you. It’s our fault. It’s our fault for not expecting more from you. It’s our fault for thinking you weren’t strong enough. Or good enough. Or smart enough. It’s our fault for assuming that you don’t want to be better. It’s our fault for thinking that you couldn’t take it. It’s our fault for not asking for your commitment. Better yet. For not demanding your commitment.
What if that sign read “Please Make a Commitment to Drive Safely” instead? How would that change it? What if you and your children passed that sign everyday? And read the word “commitment” instead of “effort” everyday? Day in. Day out. What would that mean over time?
No. This isn’t about a sign. This isn’t about changing your language. This isn’t about your business. This isn’t even about you. This is about us.
All of us.
We’re all in this alone. But we’re all in this alone, together. At what point do we as a society stop making an effort and start making a commitment towards each other? At what point do we start to challenge each other to do more? To reach beyond ourselves? To see things differently?
At what point do we expect better? And at what point do we actually get it?