We are the ones we have been waiting for

We are the ones we have been waiting for

This affirming and joyful statement resonates with me.

This period in my life has been a time of great change and of even greater reflection. As a result, I have been thinking a lot about this statement.

I lost my sister 3 months ago after her four-year journey with brain cancer. This experience has left me feeling raw and vulnerable. But as many of you who’ve faced similar, dramatic life changes know, vulnerability creates openings for learning and growth.

What can we learn from a life well-lived? What do we carry with us?

My sister was an educator in Sun Prairie for her entire career. She taught children to learn. Perhaps more amazing than helping children grow, she built community. She understood that helping children learn and prepare for future successes does not happen in isolation. The saying “it takes a village” affirms the notion that we are all interconnected, never truly independent, and we all benefit when the relations where we exist are engaging, healthy and in balance. That interdependency, that interconnectedness was primary to Carol’s life, and —maybe it’s genetic — it drives my engagement at work and in my community.

Having worked my entire career in one way or another in the areas of sustainable strategy, sustainable development, landscape architecture and resource conservation management, I have had the incredible opportunity to live out my passions through my career.

Not all of us are so lucky.

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, less than 30% of Americans are engaged in their jobs. I am humbled that my entire career path has been from one of engagement. At an early age I knew I wanted to grow up to serve in “a purposedriven life”. It all started with the Iron Eyes Cody commercial. The 1970 Keep America Beautiful public service announcement with the crying chief shedding a tear after seeing trash thrown from a car window. Every time I experienced his tear, I shed one as well. I was 9 years old. I felt our interconnection with nature so viscerally, and it’s one of the reasons I am passionate about my current role as Sustainability Specialist for American Family and my role as a sustainability strategist out in the community. Passion, purpose and a lot of self-determination have served me well over my 30-year career.

All of us have had the opportunity to witness the growth of information and evidence surrounding the environment. But it’s not simply the information about the environmental challenges facing our planet that is most obvious to me. Rather, it is the interdependency of all aspects of our biosphere, from animals to plants to humans to local ecosystems to the global climate. Change the balance of some plant life and that has impacts on animals, trickling to humans, the ecosystem and beyond. Change the balance of a social structure and it has the same impact. The loss of clean water directly impacts regional, national, and global health. Changes in ocean temperature influence weather patterns globally. While none of this information is new, what is becoming more obvious is the interconnectedness of all these pieces.

For me, my focus is to work hard on the changes I can make as an engaged person, family member, professional, community member and world citizen. I have always invested a good portion of my time volunteering in the community. I am also working on developing more mentoring/menteeing opportunities. Ways to learn from others. Ways to collaborate. Ways to help others. I treasure every opportunity.

Keeping our connections engaged, healthy and in balance is often easier said than done, whether professionally, interpersonally or environmentally. It is, however, a challenge we all face and one that we all face together. None of us are free-floating and independent islands. We are fundamentally interdependent on each other, our community, and our planet. The lesson is the same: we are in this together. Each and every one of us represents an aspect of the change we want to see in the world. We are the ones we have been waiting for – there is no other way.

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