For my kids, the highlight of our National Parks experience so far has been the 45-minute educational talk that happens each night in our campground. Usually given by a park ranger, one of the most memorable talks during our time in Glacier was given a member of the Blackfeet Nation who came to sing and share stories. My kids were captivated.
Captivated until, that is — during a song about a bear who stole the warm wind and hid it in his den — my son pointed to the ridge behind the man with the guitar and cried, “Bear!”
Sure enough, a black bear was there, munching on thimbleberries and minding his own business.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t get too much of a hassle,” said the speaker, as he continued on with his song unfazed. (My kids had a harder time staying focused.) I watched him for a while, moving slowly from one bush to the next. I found it hard to fathom a huge bear finding those tiny little berry at all nourishing. It must take a thousand berries to satisfy a bear. A Million.
The speaker that night had a lot to say about interdependence and mutuality. The bear, the berries, the moths and the glaciers and the fir trees all play a critical part in the beautiful flourishing ecosystem around us. And for a thousand years, so did the humans who called that place home. Delicate, respectful, and honoring of each creature — mindful of the dignity of each player’s irreplaceable contribution.
It felt so… Christian to me. So faith-filled. I thought, “I believe that,” and “That feels like the truth,” and “I want that in my life.” It felt like good news.
Studies have shown that the lack of exposure to the natural world is having terrible consequences for our kids. For their attention spans, their sense of wellbeing, and their physical health. It’s being deemed “nature deficit disorder,” and it makes sense to me that it has big impacts on a person’s spiritual life, too. How toxic it is to our sense of God, to our not-god-ness, to have more exposure to the forces of capitalism than the forces of the moon and the rainfall and the population of grasshoppers. Makes you more focused on the spending than the saving. More focused on the using than the contributing.
On our last day in the national park, we hiked a long rigorous trail that ended at an ice-blue lake that was filled with melt from a glacier. A glacier that, rangers reminded us again and again, would not exist in just ten short years. I thought of that bear, those moths, the Blackfeet, my kids. I thought of Jesus, one with the Creator. I wondered what my small place in the web of creation could be, given the enormity of the loss we face.
“I’m going to write a letter to Congress,” my 9-year old said on the hike down, “it’s just not fair that they’re not fixing the melting glaciers.”
“I’ll help you,” I told him.
One among a thousand. A million.