It’s one of the best times of the year. Winter and spring are finally behind us, and summer is about to hit its stride. As is common in the northwest, when the temperature increases, so does the pace of life. We all have summer projects to tackle. The fence needs fixing, the house needs painting, the garden requires attention. There’s also the vacation to plan, and a million coffee dates with long-time friends. But as we fill in our calendars and try to get to as many places to do as much as we can with these three months of bliss, we find ourselves walking on a slippery slope. In the midst of the busy schedules, we might end up forgetting the very reason for it all.
Here at Outdoor Explorers, we ask ourselves that question on a regular basis: what’s the reason for all this? Why do we spend hours and hours filling out planning forms and meeting with partners? Why do we allocate hundreds of dollars to trips? It’s a question everyone will ask themself someday: what is the point?
For an outdoor youth program, there are a few easy answers. I could tell you about the obesity epidemic in America that everyone talks about. I could give you stats on how being out in nature is psychologically beneficial to kids. I could talk about how kids (and everyone else) are hooked on technology. But let’s be honest, numbers are shallow to most of us. Ultimately, the main reason the Outdoor Explorers Mentoring Program exists is this: the future.
The outdoor experiences for matches and volunteer opportunities for students that OEMP provides are our investment in the future of America and its public lands. Yes, we’re a small program. But whether it’s just two matches or 12, we believe even the smallest seed will bear fruit in time.
Europe has its castles and chapels. South America has its ruins from ancient civilizations. In America, we don’t have much of either. What we do have are forests, rivers, grasslands, canyons; the list goes on. America’s public lands are our heritage. We might not have castles, but no other nation in the world has public lands like we do.
The point is this: we run Outdoor Explorers to mentor the next generation of land stewards. America’s public lands are beautiful, extraordinary, and priceless. The fate of these places depends on the choices of the next generation of Americans, including both college students and young kids. The future of America’s public lands can’t be set in stone, but we can teach land stewardship and create connections between program participants and public lands. That’s why it’s worth it. The hours we put in, the meetings we attend, and the funds we allocate, and the lessons we teach all converge to be our contribution to the future of our nations treasure; our land.
I encourage you, take a minute this summer before beginning something and ask yourself: what’s the reason for this? You might weed out some unnecessary things, and find more meaning for others. Here’s to a summer filled with adventure, purpose, and memories. Keep exploring!