Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Kindness, Community and the Birds

After an unfortunate event at one of our parks, I sat down and had a conversation with a police officer concerning the incident.

The episode to say the least caused me to feel very down and saddened, wondering what is happening to people and to society in general all around me. “It’s not the same out there anymore Mr. Torino,” the officer said to me. The comment did not surprise me at all. 

Our conversation continued and I sympathized with the tough job the police had nowadays. But then the officer interrupted me and said, “kindness and community Mr. Torino.” I fell silent for a few moments. I was not expecting that from a police officer “Nothing will change until we have more kindness and community” the officer added.

I was taken aback to say the least and nearly at a loss for words. Yes I added, you are right, and then almost as a natural reaction I added, “that is what we try to do all the time on our bird walks! It is all about kindness, community and of course the birds!” The officer added, “I have heard that about you guys. Thank you for doing that.” Thank you again,” I said as our talk ended.

After the conversation I had to take a seat, feeling in some way exhausted but also strengthened. Those two simple words had the answers, I thought, maybe even in some way the future of conservation.

I could not help to imagine what our efforts could and would be like if we had more kindness and community, not only in our everyday lives but also when it came to nature and the environment?

Would we have to endlessly battle to save wildlife habitat if the conversation started with community before anything else? Would we have to fight and fight for bird safe buildings if, when we sat down at the table, the discussion was about kindness first? 

I thought maybe we could protect endangered species? Even save more trees? Stop cutting down milkweed? Or maybe just maybe finally do something about climate change, if we talked more about kindness and community than about politics and power?  It is naïve to be sure, but it may be the best argument of all when things are said and done.

To survive and to continue on as an environmentalist there is no choice but to believe in the future. A future that we need to have the faith that we can make things better for future generations and hold onto the trust that our children and grandchildren might enjoy the birds and butterflies as we did, if not more.  

And when we get there, it will be together and with the profound understanding that community and kindness is what helped get us there and saved not only our environment but the rest of us along with it.

 Kindness and Community.

 See you in the Meadowlands,


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