Sitting in the back of a bus on the main highway out of Colón, our guide pointed to a familiar sight on the horizon. “There is something you all recognize, no?” There by the roadside, in this almost rural section of Panama, sat a McDonalds, surrounded by dense rain forest on three sides. “My children, they always asking if they can go there after fútbol. You have this problem too, no?” Everyone chuckled.
Truth is, ours is a very small world. Whether it’s Mickey Ds and Hello Kitty pajamas in Panama, or bumper stickers protesting George W. Bush on Curaçao, it seems there is very little separating the people of this planet.
Each day on my vacation, as I looked out over the sea or the mountainous countryside, I couldn’t help but to think about how the barriers, borders and divisions that delineate states and nations are really quite relative, especially in a day and age when technology allows me to send a message half-way around the globe in a fraction of a second. Of course, I recognize that there are plenty of people who live under oppressive governments or non-stop threats of terror and war. To those people, there are barriers that I can’t even imagine.
I also thought about how fortunate I am – even blessed – to have been born in the United States. There are plenty of things wrong with this country, in my opinion, but there is so much opportunity. This point really hit me as another guide in Panama told us about life in that country under Gen. Manuel Noriega. When the United States invaded Panama and overthrew Noriega, people danced in the streets and celebrated, she said. The thought of a foreign military invading America in order to topple the government? I can’t even comprehend something like that happening here.
Just as important as the “smallness” of this world is the fact that we are all connected. Not just the people who live in the countries, but the animals, the environment and the very planet beneath our feet. Our actions in America effect people, places and creatures around the world, and that comes with a big responsibility.
So while the world grows smaller and mothers from Central America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia raise their fists at McDonalds, it’s important to take a step back and contemplate the challenges and opportunities that come with a shrinking globe.