When I was getting physical therapy years ago, I was inspired by an amputee. She shared my therapeutic space but not my story. I only had a shattered ankle, but she had lost a leg, jumping from a helicopter in order to fight a fire.
There are other heroes who simply know the beauty of the land.
Many of them pitched in last year — like Deborah and Jeff, Emily and Rylee, Shelby and volunteers from SLCE and Tiger Tree.
It wasn’t fighting forest fires, but actively caring for the integrity of the land. That was before COVID, when we could easily take trips to see the “timeless space” that is around us.
Now forest fires are ranging, and COVID is keeping us home, but some folks keep stepping forward to save our lives and to save the land. These are the heroes, who do not make the headlines, but keep on keeping on to care for a future that rests in our hands.
Unlike the heroes, there are others as our media broadly declare. They cannot live beyond themselves. They think only of what they want. They lift loud voices in favor of “ME.” I call this the “New Selfishness” because it mirrors what Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen describes as a segment of our society that exclaims: “Do what you want!” or believes “There No Consequences.”
The “New Selfishness” has narrowed our thinking to EGO — Edging Goodness Out. It doesn’t matter if others suffer. We are the only arbiters of what is “right.”
But, we have to live with our neighbors. And, our neighbors are great and small. And, our neighbors look like us … and they don’t. Our neighbors are next door and “next-in-line” at the grocery store. Jesus taught “Love your neighbor as yourself …” And, who is my neighbor? He was asked — and he answered, a Samaritan, an “outsider.”
The New Selfishness isn’t healing us and it isn’t healing our land. Over Memorial Day, a couple drove all the way up here from Denver, then stopped and asked me — “Where do you get those signs? — “Kindness, Courage, and Compassion are contagious, too.” They wanted one to take to Colorado.
So, we keep coming back to SELF-preservation, which is important during COVID, but it doesn’t help us fight forest fires. The danger threatens us — AND OUR NEIGHBOR. We are vulnerable, and so are they. Our best chances are to work together. To fight fires, we need everyone, and to “beat” COVID we still need everyone.
So, September 28th is the observance of “Public Lands Day.” Each of us have a choice to value the lands which inspire us, or to treat them as our “back yard.” Public Lands Day marks a vision to see the lands in their majesty and to live by a value that is greater than ourselves.
Someday, may we reject the “New Selfishness” and live in a land which calls us to be … larger than ourselves.