BY ANNE NEUBERGER | October 1, 2019
In my childhood mornings, I noticed the sun rising over the nearby river. Often my busy mother pointed out the beauty of the sunrise on the water.
I vaguely understood that the river was polluted. Our little town’s paper mill was the cause. Some days the mill smelled badly. But it supplied my school with scrap paper. And my grandfather, father, and uncles worked there. The mill was part of my life.
So was the abundance of nature surrounding us. Our neighbor, Jean, called me to come to see a wild plant growing in a shady corner of her yard. She said it was a “jack-in-the-pulpit,” pointing out who Jack was on the plant and why it appeared he was in a pulpit. I loved that. Then Jean ran her fingers over some nearby moss and I copied her. It was so soft! More than fifty years later, I still look for moss in a shady area.
When I grew up, I wanted to nurture that love of nature in my children. Issues of environmental damage and hints at global warming were prevalent as we collected leaves for crayon rubbings to make a book for grandpa’s birthday. We planted a sunflower, predicting it would become as tall as our 6’2” friend and marveled when it towered over him. While camping near Lake Superior, my then 8-year-old son stood on large rocks, laughing and challenging the chilling waves to catch him. I sensed that he would someday challenge injustices. I was right.
And now? Even in my fears in the 1990’s, I couldn’t have imagined what we would be facing.
But face it we must. Now I trudge outside in the snow with grandchildren to put out extra food for birds and squirrels after a blizzard, pondering how best to help this generation rise to the challenge of climate degradation.
It is imperative that our children learn to use the phrase “creation care.” The words environment, earth, or nature are fine, but to say “creation” implies a Creator. And that is where we must start.
Adding “care” implies we are involved.
There are two sides to creation care: dealing with the damage and reveling in the joy.
Dealing with the Damage
Adults must inform children about environmental issues without scaring them:
- While taking your recycling container out for pick-up, say there is a big problem with garbage all around the world. Recycling is good, but we must also look for ways to reduce the amount of garbage our family creates. Let’s make that a goal.
- Children should learn the importance of making choices that will not cause more damage:
- Challenge each other to pack lunches with the least amount of one-use plastic possible. Talk about why that is significant.
- Announce that as plastic water bottles will take at least 450 years to decompose, you will no longer buy them.
You can make creation care second nature to the very youngest:
- Have your two-year-old put cans into the recycling bin and say, “You are helping take care of God’s wonderful creation. You are doing important work!”
- Broach new topics with elementary aged-children:
- Together watch videos about deforestation and replanting trees.
- Find programs through nature centers where older children can help plant trees or remove invasive species. Talk with them about those experiences.
Reveling in the Joy
Every day, nurture awe for God’s Creation. People who love it will protect it.
In his book, The Nature Principle, Richard Louv writes about people who train themselves to become so conscious of the natural world that they essentially can “read” nature.
- With kids, look for trees where leaves are moving, then listen for the rustling sound of those leaves’ movement; compare leaf shapes, and feel bark. Who made these wonders?
- Count the ways you see water: puddles, lakes, ice cubes, drinking fountains. All water is a gift from God!
- Point out weeds poking up through cracks in the pavement. What incredible strength that took! What a phenomenal urge to grow!
- Together listen to the rain on the roof of a porch and say a little thanksgiving prayer for that rain.
There would be no creation without the Creator. Always mention the Creator.
Last—and first—don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Pray for God’s Creation daily.