For the protection of the earth, God’s gift of Creation, it is beneficial to devote time in our busy lives to take in nature’s beauty in a way that rouses feelings of profound gratitude. How much time do most people spend connecting with the natural world and how does this compare to time spent doing other things? Are children provided enough opportunities to learn about and appreciate the natural world?
I am deeply grateful for the times I experience the spiritual power of nature through the eyes of my young grandchildren. Sometimes, a focus on the natural world imparts a peacefulness for little ones who are in a cranky state of mind. When children look outside (colder weather months) or walk around the yard and observe trees, birds and other aspects of nature, they seem to instantly connect with these wonders. Just the other day as the sun was rising, our sweet, two-year old granddaughter was a bit crabby after a shorter than normal bout of sleep. We focused her attention out the back window where she exclaimed with amazement that the trees were orange. The beautiful appreciation of God’s artwork by this young child – in this case, the reflection of the sunlight on the tree line – was notable from her “oohs and aahs.”
Even during the indoor months, it is possible to spend time appreciating the gifts of the natural world. Through intimate connections with nature and the recognition that all of Creation is connected, which Pope Francis terms integral ecology, there is a greater desire to adjust and live more sustainably – to take care of the natural treasures. The moments of experiencing the world through the eyes of a little child remind us of the importance of earth’s wonders – all of which must be revered and protected. Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.