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CAUSE & EFFECT: Making Amends with my GPS

CAUSE & EFFECT: Making Amends with my GPS

I have always been perplexed by people who become upset with inanimate objects.  Someone who stubs their toe and is mad at the table, or unattended burned cookies become the fault of the oven.  This variety of anger seemed misplaced until I began a dysfunctional relationship with my car’s navigation system.

I have grown to despise her.  But in my defense, she started it.  We just can’t seem to communicate anymore.  The simplest of requests fall on deaf ears and the only reply she is willing to give is “pardon?”- as if she doesn’t hear me.  Every time she says pardon, I ask again, only louder.

Most recently I found myself on the side of the road, with both my tone and blood pressure escalating as I begged for directions to a meeting.  I was raising my voice at an inanimate satellite circling the planet posing as a friendly sidekick ready to assist me.  I regained my composure and realized this was an issue in more ways than one.

I apologized, took a few deep breaths and turned the system’s audio assist feature off.  I whispered, “it’s not you, it’s me”, and vowed to find a new way forward.

A few months ago the team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, moved into our new headquarters at Collaboratory located in the Midtown district of Fort Myers.  A new office location meant new routes to and from work and the various regional road trips I make on a regular basis.  Even though I have lived in the area for nearly 15 years, I had become overly reliant on the GPS system even for the shortest of trips.

When I turned the system off, I decided to take the opportunity to become more present and aware in my commute and daily travel.  No more hopping in the car and letting a voice from the speakers tell me where to turn or navigating from habit on my best-known roads.  Instead I began choosing different routes each day and paying attention to what I saw along the way.

The daily commute became less about the destination and more about the journey.  I am astonished by what I have been missing by relying on auto pilot.  Just last week I discovered a middle school, 5 churches or temples, 2 nonprofits and a housing complex that I had never noticed.  Every few days I change my course and stay alert to my surroundings.

Last week I made an intentional trip to the Everglades to be dialed in to landmarks and the natural resources that are top of mind for Southwest Florida residents.  I have been bringing my observations back to the office and asking my colleagues what they notice on walks, bike rides and daily commutes.  A community is always changing and every morning we wake up to new challenges and opportunities.  We can’t be asleep at the wheel.

The team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation works hard to provide philanthropic GPS to fundholders, donors, organizations, businesses, and advocates.  With thousands of local nonprofits and community initiatives people who want to find a way to change the world can become lost on their way to making a difference.  They know where they want to go but are not always certain of how to get there.  Through data, conversations, educating ourselves on the amazing work of nonprofits and tracking the progress of regional change for the common good, the Foundation is creating a mapping system that can help guide the way.

Recently we added a feature to our website that helps connect local work to global sustainable development goals, to further enhance our ability to identify gaps in services and measure change with a common language. Please visit and click on “what we do.”

Feel free to reach out to us to guide you- we may not have all the answers, but I promise you I won’t say, “Pardon?”.

If you know an interesting route in Southwest Florida you think I should explore by car, foot or waterway, email me at [email protected].


The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit


Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More