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Why What We Do Matters

Written by Glenna Holstein
    Tuesday, 06 January 2015
Why What We Do Matters

The turn of the year is always a good time for reflection-- to ask, “Why do I do what I do?”

Sometimes it’s really hard for me to answer that question. We live in a city plagued by segregation, disparity and systemic violence, within a country that often feels paralyzed by political polarization. Against this backdrop, I sometimes find myself planning a snowshoe program and wondering, “Isn’t there more I could be doing?” and “Is this work really that important?”

I think the answer to both of these questions is “yes.”

Yes, there is more to be done. It’s critically important for me to constantly reflect on how I can do more to help fix what is broken in my community, and to remember that our work at the Center is not the only good work being done. The more we can support the efforts of others doing amazing work in our neighborhoods, the stronger we all are.

And also, yes, this work is important and relevant for two reasons:

First: common ground. As a society, we tend to isolate and section ourselves in a way that makes it extraordinarily difficult for us to see across the racial, economic and political divisions we create. At the Center, we see our work as building common ground (sometimes literally!). A park is a place where everyone can find something to enjoy, a place where people can have shared experiences. We try to create spaces where people who have different backgrounds can thrive together and build something together. After all, you don’t have to agree on everything to be awed by the magnificent quiet after a fresh snowfall in the park.

Secondly (and this is exceedingly basic): love. Life in all its forms — plant, animal, human, white, black, brown — is sacred and precious, and our survival as a society, and as a species, depends on truly taking that belief as our centering tenet. We cannot make this world better if we don’t believe that the whole thing is worth loving!

So, why do this work? Not because it is the only good work or because it is the most important, but because it is an important piece of the puzzle. We live in a city that desperately needs common ground and desperately needs us to believe that it is worth loving. And as silly as it might sound, I do believe that wintry snowshoe tromps through the park, alongside a neighbor, just might help us get there.

Glenna Holstein

Glenna Holstein

Glenna grew up a mile up the river from the Riverside Park, so the Urban Ecology Center has always been important to her. Her studies and work have taken her all over the hemisphere, but her home has always been right here in Milwaukee. As Menomonee Valley Branch Manager, she is delighted to be part of the team that is working to connect a new community to the nature in their neighborhood. Her favorite things to do include hiking, exploring, cooking, singing, building forts, and trying to convince children that cockleburs are really baby porcupines!

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