My Two Calendars

A special guest post by Rev. Helen J. Nelson, Pastor at Oak Grove Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Kansas City, Kansas and member of the Board of Directors of SSC.

Recently two acquaintances each gave me a different desk calendar as a gift. One of the desk calendars has daily tips for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and fitness. The other has inspirational quotes, facts, and simple suggestions for being “green”. The health and fitness calendar is a gift that I appreciate because I really do need daily reminders in that area of my life. The gift of the “green” calendar was a bit of a puzzle to me, as I have been practicing, teaching, preaching, and advocating environmental stewardship and sustainability for over forty years. I did not know whether the giver thought I was not “green” enough, or was simply being thoughtful in giving a gift that clearly resonates with my values. Resolved to keep an open mind, I placed the “green” calendar at eye level in my kitchen where I would see it every time I make a deposit into a small bag I use to hold recycling items prior to carrying them out to the big recycle bin in the garage. The health and fitness calendar is in my office, to deter me from eating junk food snacks at my desk and to encourage me to get up and do more walking between tasks.

After several weeks of reading the two calendars each day, some interesting realizations began to dawn on me. First of all, I became more keenly aware on a daily basis of the connections between personal and environmental vitality. I thought about how the recent Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition program about carcinogens in the environment had explored the relationship between toxic environmental pollutants and cancer. I have long thought of the human body as an ecosystem, a microcosm of the macrocosm, so to speak. Even so, unless I hold that thought in my conscious awareness, I am not very likely to act responsibly in that regard. In all honesty, I am more likely to eat healthy and to exercise when it is convenient, inexpensive, and painless to do so. Otherwise, especially in winter weather, my tendency is to revert to the unhealthy processed foods and aversion to exercise I learned as a child.

Over the years I have struggled to understand how anyone could be so thoughtless as to litter, to throw away items that can be reused or recycled, to waste energy resources, or to knowingly pollute the soil, water, and air with toxic chemicals. But if our bodies are ecosystems, too, and we fill them with unhealthy processed foods or fail to balance rest and exercise because we are always rushing from one activity to another, then we are polluting ourselves and not contributing to the sustainability of our bodies as precious ecosystems, either. If we would mistreat our own bodies so carelessly, then why wouldn’t we do the same to the soil, sea, and sky?

Finally, it occurred to me that my two calendars really are not so different. They both remind me of facts and ideas that I already know and put to use, and they both offer new information and suggestions to improve my personal health and the well being of all Creation. As I observe the positive impact that even small changes can make to enhance personal health, I am convinced that the same is true for the collective environment we share. This is encouraging, because even though our environmental challenges are monumental, they are not insurmountable, as success builds upon success and synergy is activated. My two calendars show me that every day presents countless opportunities to choose health for myself and for all the other Selves with whom I share this amazing Creation. This, my friends, is good news.