Thursday, April 14, 2011


"Mama, we've got to save him!"

I'd already jumped the creek when I heard my son cry out these words. I turned to see him leaning forward, pointing to a small caterpillar thrashing about in the muddy water.

It was a delicate balancing act to stand on a muddy creek bank and hold a stick out in an attempt retrieve a caterpillar without impaling it, but my child didn't stop until the small creature was safely out of the water and resting on the limb of a nearby tree.

I've taught him not to think of things in our environment as just a caterpillar or just a tree or just a bird. I've taught him not to step on insects just because they are small, which once led to something of an altercation with another child who was gleefully stomping ants in the park. I've taught him that our forests need to be protected, and he once startled me by yelling "Stop it right now you mean guys!" from the car window at a work crew in the process of destroying a wooded area we'd always enjoyed passing by (it's a housing tract now). But it is in moments like this that, as a parent, I feel proud, because my child is caring about something else enough to stand up for it. I can see the seeds of eco-activism being sown...and I love it, because I've never known an activist who wasn't bold.

Julia Butterfly Hill ( was bold enough to live in the branches of an ancient redwood tree for almost 3 years in order to save it from being destroyed. Simon Jackson, ( at the tender age of 15, was bold enough to go against the government of his country and mount an international campaign to save the habitat of the rare Spirit Bear. My son was bold enough to risk falling face-forward into a muddy creek in order to save a caterpillar from drowning. Not quite the same thing, of course, but a definite start.

Like a stone cast into a still pool, our actions, no matter how seemingly small, can create a ripple effect with the power to reach far beyond what we might imagine ourselves capable. Only one thing lies certain: Nothing is changed if we do nothing. I applauded my son's efforts the day he saved the caterpillar, and I let him know that his actions made a big difference. Maybe not to the world at large, but definitely to that little caterpillar.

Being bold sometimes comes down to this: it's not so much what you do as it is the fact that you do something.

Painting: Refugee, by Amy L. Alley

No comments:

Post a Comment