One of the most unflattering human characteristics we all have is to show little interest in subjects that we have no first-hand experience in. How many times in your life have you listened to someone tell you a story about a vacation or activity and, despite their enthusiasm, you couldn’t care less about it? Then suddenly, one day perhaps years down the road, you find yourself excited about the very subject that you were once totally indifferent to. It happens to all of us, and if you step back and think about the situation and why your interest changed, chances are it was most likely caused by an unexpected “hands-on” experience.
Just such a transformation happened to a friend of mine who grew up near Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is a great city that sits on the isthmus of several lakes, beautiful city parks, and surrounded by some of the most productive and beautiful country farmland in America. Despite the abundance of outdoor activities available to her throughout life, Tracy was simply into other things: music, dance, and church activities. There is nothing wrong with these activities, but as a result of spending the majority of her time indoors, she had no interest in the outdoor world. A mandatory “team building” activity at work changed all that.
A day-long group canoe trip down a local river forced Tracy into unfamiliar territory. So without a choice, she spent the day floating the river. What she didn’t expect was to find herself in the middle of a life-changing transformation.
After the initial tension of trying something new, unfamiliar, and a little scary wore off, she found herself enjoying the sunshine, the wildlife, and the peacefulness of the outdoors. Despite the first-timer frustrations of learning to paddle a canoe, plus getting a terrific sunburn, a whole new world was opened up to her. And you guessed it: Tracy now owns a kayak and regularly travels around the state to find new water to explore. She has a nice collection of nature books, mostly field guides, as she discovered an interest in nature after so many encounters on the water. She recycles anything and everything possible, even starting a compose pile in her back year to recycle her grass clippings. And the coup de gras, Tracy recently joined a conservation organization as she finds herself compelled to volunteer to raise funds for wildlife habitat projects. Wow! All this trapped inside the body of someone who was forced by her job to discover it!
There is a saying related to wildlife conservation that I really like, and it goes like this: For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.
Tracy has found herself conserving what she once had no interest in. And she got to this point by means of a newfound pleasure discovered only after getting outdoors. She is spending more of her time these days learning about the outdoors, trying to understand more aspects of it, and raising money to enhance and protect habitat!
Do you consider yourself “green?” If you recycle, bike to work, turn the water off while you brush your teeth, or even use a paper cup more than once, chances are that you answered yes to the question. Why? Because you have an appreciation for the outdoor world and the preservation of our planet. And why do you have that appreciation? Because you actually get outdoors and experience natural beauty, fresh air, and clean lakes and streams. You are preserving what you love, and you love it because you have a better understanding and appreciation for the outdoors.
And chances are high that you also know a “Tracy”. Take this challenge: get someone you know outdoors for an activity that you already love. Just getting them outside is the first step! By doing so you may be committing the greatest act of “going green” possible: influencing someone else to do the same. Is there a Tracy buried inside someone you know?