Today is Earth Day.
We honor it even as we remember those killed in earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan, as well as in wars and violence around the globe. Earth Day reminds us of the violence we humans do to this good Earth as well as to one another.
How do we raise children on this fragile, damaged planet, amid the chaos caused by human violence? Despair and depression can overwhelm us and pull even the littlest ones into our downward spiral. The ways in which we respond — what we do today and in the days ahead — will leave its imprint on the children entrusted to our care.
So on this Earth Day, I’m going to make a simple suggestion: go play in the dirt, and (quite literally) ground yourself and your children in the earth.
In case you haven’t been following recent research reports in journals such as Neuroscience or Discover or various gardening magazines, dirt is the new healing agent.
Some researches call dirt the “natural antidepressant” because bacteria found in it (Microbacterium vaccae) triggers the release of serotonin in our brains, and as Robyn Francis writes from Permaculture College Australia, “Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant that strengthens the immune system.” In other words, playing in dirt is good for both soul and body.
Recent terrorist acts and natural disasters have reminded us that even with the best intentions, we can’t protect our children. The only response I know is to give our children and grandchildren the best life we can.
Give them the Earth on this Earth Day.
A few ideas:
* My first instinct was to say, “Plant something, whether in your yard or in a container on your windowsill,” but if your children are too young to care yet about gardening, just give them a small shovel or sturdy spoon and a container of some sort, and find them a patch of dirt to dig around in.
* Build a fairy house with found objects from your yard or neighborhood (if this concept is new to you, google “simple fairy houses” for a wide range of options)
* Create a “construction site” in the dirt and invite the children to dig a foundation; if you have toy trucks, bring them out, too, to help with the project.
* And here’s a link for many more Earth Day activities with children worth doing all year long.
A Prayer for Today
O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
How do you honor Earth Day?
Carolyn Eklund says
The photo is priceless. A toy construction truck, a shovel, some dirt and a darling child of God are sure to heal anyone. Great article!
joanna seibert says
How wonderful to hear about the amazing work of another deacon. Thank you for your great ministry and your writing. Joanna Seibert Arkansas
Peg Thomas says
Thanks, Mary Lee, for reminding me of the simple pleasures children of all ages have playing in the dirt.