The Environment

I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do.” – Jana Stanfield

At the end of every day my house is a mess. There is litter (toys on the floor), dangerous spills (popsicle residue on the floor), waste of precious resources (water, electricity and paper), some areas have been taken over by debris (the dining room table) and I think the couch could be a Super Fund clean up site (crumbs, toothpaste and other unidentifiable debris). There is an invasive species in with the dishes (toys in the sink) and measurable climate change (I keep the house is four degrees warmer than I used to at night). Having kids is really messing with my environment.

The environmentalist Wendell Berry is credited with the profound idea that we have not inherited the earth from our parents; we have borrowed it from our children. But he must have been talking about the concept of children and not actual children who seem to naturally tend toward not worrying about limited resources.

Given the numerous stories and approaches that I’ve heard from parents, I’d guess raising an environmentalist is hard, even when the practice is limited to only their room or a play room. My friend told me her daughter once excitedly said to a guest to their house, “Come see my ruin!” A miscommunication so apt that they are still laughing about it 30 years later.

Another family tried teaching by logical consequences so that any toys left on the floor were likely to be trod upon and that must be an effective method because the girls, now in their college years, can still enumerate the toy fatalities (toy-talities?).  Eventually these kids grew up to be good stewards of their environments but not without someone helping them see the big picture and how they can make a difference.

A quote from the Dalai Lama, “Human use, population, and technology have reached that certain stage where Mother Earth no longer accepts our presence with silence,” has spurred me to action because up to this point I’ve been often opting for silence — mostly cleaning it myself rather than teaching them how.

My son goes on garbage walks with his school – the kids identify garbage and the teachers pick it up and put it in bags. My daughter loves to be organized. So I have some raw capabilities to work with and just might be able to make some good stewards of the environment out of them yet!

The Power of Being

Please remember, it is what you are that heals, not what you know.” – Carl Jung

This weekend I invited a friend who is dealing with a long-term illness to come hang out with us. Her husband called me afterwards to tell me that is exactly what she needs. When I asked what I could do to help, he responded that she just needed more of the same. Time spent just being with little ones.

I love spending time with my kids. But I often get wrapped up in the logistics – preparing food, changing diapers, keeping healthy. So it often surprises me when my friends visit and say, “That was good for my soul.”

There is a lot of mystery in what is good for our souls. But in this context I understand that to mean that being around humans that are so close to the source helps us shed a few layers. When enveloped in activities that have only to do with the fun of the moment, we get to leave behind the news, our plans for becoming something and maybe even our worries.

As I was talking with my friend’s husband, I realized I kept asking what I could do and his consistent response was just to be. It reminded me that isn’t just kids that can be good for our souls. Anyone committed to just showing up with each other and fully being is far more restorative than much of the busy-ness grown-ups often cook up. As Carl Jung says, “Please remember, it is what you are that heals, not what you know.”