Today, a group of special needs adults came to the Wehr Nature Center for a field trip. They saw a puppet show about how animals survive the winter. We passed the puppets among them to let them meet the characters before the show. Afterwards, we passed some real animals around, a box turtle and a snake named Fancy, for them to touch “with one finger”. Then, we divided the group in half and went outside. Those that were more ambulatory took a walk around the nature center, the others sat up on the observation deck overlooking the pond. This was a very diverse group, and I couldn’t tell what they were noticing or taking in. We tried to point out things that they could see, hear, touch, or smell (we didn’t dare do any tasting!). Some of them were pretty absorbed by their own selves and other people in the group. Some were able to engage at times in what was around them on the path. One man, Charlie, pointed up to a tree covered with Virginia creeper vines that had turned red and just started laughing! He was so excited! I loved that reaction. That made my day. Lester spent the time pointing out behaviors in the group or hiding behind people. He held my hand for a while on the trail. When we all congregated on the observation deck, he introduced some of his friends to the staff, one by one. Finally, we got them all loaded back on the bus and waved good-bye. There were 30 in all, including 2 in wheelchairs. Most were men. All the caregivers were women.
I am grateful to have been reminded that biological diversity includes every species and every variation in the species, including ours. Respecting and including all of life is an exercise in awareness every moment of every day. I want to be able to be gracious and friendly to every living thing I encounter, and I want to put myself in a position to encounter a wide variety. I suppose that is my desire for my own edification, but I think that it is advantageous for everyone and builds tolerance and peace in the world. Observing people in nature is interesting. Some of the volunteers were talking about kids who react negatively to things in nature. One girl got very agitated and upset over the sticker-burrs that were clinging to her sweater after a hike. It makes you wonder how unfamiliar she must have been with the outdoors. We are often scared by things that are unknown. As we understand things better, we are able to be more compassionate. Steve’s favorite Bible verse is “For God so loved the world…” and he stops there. God loves the world. Steve loves the world. What would be the result if more people learned to love the world and taught their children to do the same? “And it was very good.”