I do not even know the name of the woman who convinced me that the most important work any of us can do, is Bridge the Divides in our Society. She came to talk to an ecological restoration meeting I was attending in the Pacific Northwest.
It was not long after the federal listing of spotted owls forced the closure of logging in many National Forests there. Because she was dressed so unlike the majority of the young environmental activists in the room; most of them categorically dismissed her merely on her looks, and then her vocal tone as well.
She started to explain how her husband had lost his job due to the forest policy changes and that they were now forming crews of unemployed loggers to do salmon stream restoration. But most of the men in the room stilled ignored her, checking their phones, or looking at their computer screens.
At some point near the middle of her allotted time, she asked if she could have a two-minute break to go to the bathroom. When she came back out, she was dressed like us: fleeces, chums, tee-shirts with conservation messages on them, khaki shorts and tevas. “Listen up,” she said. “You dismissed me, but you can’t dismiss the work these men are doing. They are healing the very streams and wildlife habitats you want to save!”
To say that I was humbled and ashamed of my attitude is understatement. I was knocked to the ground, horrified by my own haughtiness.
But that’s what humility should do to us, isn’t it? Humility, from the Greek, humus. Get us back down to earth, to be receptive to the salt of the earth, to those who may look and talk differently than we do, but who deserve to be listened to and supported in their own efforts to heal the earth and to heal our communities.