When I was invited to join a Natural Step study circle to explore sustainability in my own community, I should have been thrilled. My usual reaction would have been to dive right in to a good idea, completely oblivious of the potential sharks in the water until it was too late.
Instead I reacted with skepticism. I wondered what the point would be-a bunch of my Greenie friends sitting around talking about stuff we already try to do and how we can't change those who won't listen. I wondered why we should even try in an area of Wisconsin filled with oversized SUV-driving, McMansion-living, global warming-denying people who mostly transplanted here from other states (I know, that isn't really fair!). I wondered what a handful of citizens could do; afterall we weren't on the village board or business owners or even people of influence in our small town.
I carried around this bad attitude for a few days wondering if maybe I had lost my "youthful optimism". Then I opened the Lake Country Reporter and read "The Old Rail Fence" column by Pam Weinhammer that features stories of local history. This one was about Stephen and Mary Warren, the first European settlers in the Hartland area. I found myself drawn into their story as I read about the locations where he built his first cabin, where the Native American trails passed through and the world of 1938. I realized that during his lifetime here, our farmhouse was built and he may have known the people who built it or even been invited for dinner.
I realized that I was reading the story of the Warren's with as much interest and intrigue as I would my own family tree. As I read the article to my kids I noticed the language that I was using. I told them that his land claims were by OUR church and OUR library and how the Indian trail followed along OUR bike trail. This story of the Warrens' was more than just the story of Hartland, it was also part of MY story because Hartland was now part of my family's story. Even though we've only lived here for 8 years, it was now our home and would always be my children's hometown.
Just like that my skepticism vanished. If Hartland was MY town and it's history part of MY heritage, I had just as much claim to it's future as those that were born here and those on the village board. I was surprised at how much I cared about what happens here. The first meeting of the Natural Step was a few days away. I shrugged my shoulders at my renewed optimism, put my arms over my head and dove right in.