I’m not a scientist. Heck, I barely even made it through my high school biology class (thankfully, I managed to survive with a B-). However, I love this earth, and I want to see it last so that my children and my children’s children (and so on…) can enjoy this beautifully created masterpiece. I want all future generations to be able to go outside, play in the dirt until their fingernails turn brown, and make imaginary forts with their neighbors. I want them to whine about putting sunscreen on, but only because it’s wasting their precious time that could be spent finding the perfect hiding spot for hide and go seek. And I want them to ride their bikes to the local pond, spending many afternoons feeding geese and talking to turtles.
I want every child to have the same upbringing that I did. Growing up in a tight-knit neighborhood, I recall many mornings where I would wake up before sunrise and walk across the alley way to a neighbor’s house (they had a backyard shed that served as the headquarters for our outdoor adventure club). Every morning we planned out our events for the day, most of which involved building up enough courage to confront Ms. Miller’s evil bulldog. We stayed out until dinner time, when finally someone’s mother would call us inside to serve all of us dinner. At night we’d all reconvene at my house, where we’d go swimming in my backyard pool. After all, night time was always the best time to go swimming. It could serve as our bath, right Mom? I mean, water was involved.
After serving two whole summers as a full-time nanny for a brother and sister, ages nine and seven, I realize that today’s children aren’t as fascinated with the outdoors as I was. I recall begging them to go outside and play basketball and on some occasions, even bribing them. I was oftentimes unpopular with them for refusing to allow the television to be turned on until they spent at least twenty minutes in their backyard. At one point, they cried and told me how mean I was for not driving them down the street to go swimming in their friend’s pool. I insisted that they ride their bikes. “But my bike has dust on it!” Well, that exclamation right there proves why they needed to spend more time outside.
The average visitor age for the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is around 50, and it is one of my goals to decrease that age before my year of service concludes. So far, I’ve gotten our two local colleges to bus students in to attend our centennial celebration (where we hosted 600 people – GREAT number for a park that typically has around 30 visitors a day) and, as a current college student, I have gotten out to many university events to promote what’s going on at the site. I’m currently in the works to plan a coffee shop volunteer interest meeting for local millennials. I mean, who doesn’t love coffee? (Or hot chocolate… or scones… or a coffee shop atmosphere… you know where I’m getting)
Like I said earlier, I am not a scientist. But this year, I have learned that you don’t have to be an expert in biology to take care of the earth. I’ve spent many days collecting limbs and raking leaves at President Carter’s boyhood farm. Oftentimes, I’ll take a time out and rest on a bench, only to be reminded of the work that young Jimmy Carter did in this very location. He woke up at 4 A.M. every morning. He worked in the farm’s blacksmith shop, even in the blistering 100 degree weather. And, he picked cotton from sunrise to sunset, at most gathering 150 pounds in a day. So why are so many children today complaining about riding their bikes down the street? Is it because there are more technologies to distract them? Or is it because they don’t have to spend their time outside, like young Jimmy did? These are often questions that I ask myself when trying to conduct the perfect volunteer recruitment formula. It’s not an easy task, but when I figure it out, I’ll be sure to let you all know.