As I write this, I've just proved victorious in a tug of war match with Elliott who attempted to drag me out of my chair, all the while chanting walk! - walk! - walk! while clutching and tugging on my arm. It's not that I'm opposed to walking with him, but we spent time at the park earlier today. Besides, much like our former Labrador retrievers, there really is no quenching his thirst for the outdoors. I'm not going to complain about it. The University of Maryland conducted a study and found that in just this decade alone, the time kids spend outdoors has dropped 50%. If your XBox machine came with a smile, that's the reason.
Katie and I both know the value of youth being outdoors. In our former jobs, we were fortunate to be part of changing the lives of so many kids who needed it. Parents and program supporters in the community would frequently call our program a miracle. It's true; there were an awful lot of miracle workers on staff. But I'll always believe Mother Nature was the unsung hero.
As much as many of our kids needed a change of scenery, a new environment, it would be wrong to underestimate the value of that change being in the wilderness. Something about the outdoors lights a fire in a child’s sense of wonderment, especially kids who have experienced the outdoors from the wrong side of a window. Nature offers enough amazement to keep each of us in awe for a lifetime; it's the strongest evidence of God that my eyes can see and hands can touch.
In witnessing firsthand the powerful healing effect of a wilderness experience on kids, I came to believe that the absence of such experiences had to be equally detrimental. I come from a long line of farmers, Katie from a long line of hunters; Elliott should receive a healthy serving of the great outdoors, leaving at least one XBox frowning.