Monday, September 21, 2015

Our Parks are More than Just Green Space

"You are very lucky to live in this country."

We had a block party yesterday and welcomed a couple of new families to our street. I spent some time talking to a lovely woman who, with her family, immigrated here from Ukraine. What she said nearly brought tears to my eyes. It is worth sharing.

She spoke often of how we had taken special, natural places and preseved them. Ukraine has beautiful places but the people have done nothing to keep them open and available for the citizens to enjoy. My neighbor was amazed at all the state and national parks we have. She spoke specifically about Illinois Beach State Park, Devil's Lake in Wisconsin, and Niagara Falls.  The family is already planning trips for next summer.

What else do we have? Blue water. In Ukraine, the water is brown.  Here the water is fresh; there the large bodies of water are salty. We take it for granted; she thinks it is amazing.

We do not appreciate what we have until we see it through another person's eyes. As my new neighbor spoke, I silently thanked all the "tree huggers" who fight so hard to keep the Great Lakes blue and the trees in Devil's Lake State Park green. She admires Americans for taking care of the natural gifts we have. Little does she know how difficult that has been to accomplish.