This post originally appeared in A Rocha International’s Planetwise blog.
By Christie Goode
In late August, within twenty-four hours of each other, I was present at two very special events with our summer interns.
The first was an evening presentation by our science staff and interns on the results of their work over the summer. We heard about restoration projects, levels of water-dissolved oxygen in the Little Campbell River, and what it all means for aquatic life in the watershed. We learned about tracking the populations of Western Toad Anaxyrus boreas and Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, both of which are threatened species here. And we heard about plant-based inventories at Cedar Haven Farm near Hamilton, and at the Pembina Valley Interpretive Centre in Manitoba.
The second event occurred the next day, as staff and local volunteers gathered to bless and hear from our departing summer interns. These end-of-semester times with interns are always special. Interns often make only passing reference to their newly-acquired scientific or practical knowledge, and then focus on what they’ve learned about themselves, relationships, and life.
This August was no different. To be honest, their comments made my whole summer:
‘I’ve moved a LOT the past 10–15 years, but I have never felt so welcome anywhere, as I have here.’
‘Seeing how this community functions has helped me to realize that I really don’t have to be everything. Community really does work well when people simply work out of their areas of giftedness.’
‘Being here has helped me to start loving myself more.’
I’m sharing these two events with you – a science presentation and a time of sharing about personal transformation – because I am convinced they are related.
As humans we are meant to be grounded − rooted − in our physical environment. We are meant to be attentive to, to know and to care for the creation around us – this attentiveness awakes wonder in us, and reveals the value of that piece of creation. And once we recognize the beauty and value of that Barn Swallow and that Western Toad, we also become more attentive to and caring toward the people around us. And ourselves.
As one intern put it ‘I’ve never lived anywhere with people who had such integrity, who demonstrate a deep consistency between what they preach and what they practice.’
I think this integrity is key to what these interns experienced about feeling welcome, of being free to be themselves, and of starting to love themselves more. Not integrity in some kind of a moral sense, but in the sense of being undivided … of being whole …
Those of us in the A Rocha community are not perfect and we all have our areas of brokenness (trust me!) but I do think there is something about caring for the environment that builds integrity. We are meant to live in union with the environment around us. Most of us live with an ‘us-it’ division between us and creation, and it isn’t healthy. When we move toward a wholeness of relationship with creation, we become more integrated. And an integrated person is stronger, more able to be themselves, and to receive others easily and comfortably.
Sometimes people tell me they think A Rocha is only about the environment. It’s not. It’s about all of us. It’s about transforming people and places by being a community where people and places thrive together.