As a busy mother of three living in the rural U.S. — specifically beautiful East Tennessee — I am truly blessed: With my three healthy children, for starters; with my incredibly fulfilling work with families from around the world; and with my husband’s support and his spiritual leadership in our church. It’s a pretty sweet life. As Earth Day comes around again, I’m reminded of these blessings, but also of the many families around the world who lack the bounty and blessings we take for granted.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America, I saw deprivation at close range. I watched women lose babies. I watched babies lose mothers, and the tragic effects of those losses. I went on to work for an organization focused on helping children and mothers survive and thrive, including launching a program to provide clean water for kids under five in Latin America and around the world.
Those experiences helped me recognize how fortunate I am to live in a world with so many opportunities, benefits and resources.
This Earth Day I invite you to recognize one of the best natural resources we have: parents. When parents thrive, mothers as well as fathers, – and especially when mothers are able to make choices about the spacing of their children – their families and communities thrive too.
As a parent, I know that healthy, thriving women both create and depend on healthy, thriving communities. We all depend on the bounty of the earth for the health and well-being of our children and families. I recognize more than ever that our resources are not inexhaustible. Without clean air and water, healthy forests, abundant fish and wildlife, we cannot have healthy families. And a healthy environment depends on families who are empowered to make informed decisions that work for them, particularly about the size of their family and healthy spacing of those children. The myriad ways women, and in turn families and communities, are affected by lack of access to care are profound and far-reaching.
Now as a parent educator, I help parents by focusing on raising children with empathy and respect. When we foster empathy in our children, they grow up to have empathy for others and for the future world, and that includes caring for our environment. Creating a sustainable environment is about compassion for others. That means being good stewards and making sure that others also have what we have benefitted from–access to clean water, clean air, and the basics of healthcare, including family planning resources and information and prenatal care. Undeserving, I have benefitted greatly from these resources. So when families around the world are asking for resources to improve their lives as well, and we have the means to provide them, I am moved to do what I can.
Sometimes it’s challenging to connect the dots between healthy people and a healthy planet; but for me, it feels essential. If we have the knowledge, skills and resources to make our own and our children’s lives fulfilling and healthy, it’s our responsibility to be engaged and take action. Sharing will mean a healthier planet—and healthier families too. It means helping to ensure a healthy world for children to grow up in, healthy air to breathe, clean water to drink.
My children will, God willing, grow up healthy and empowered to plan their own families. But the world they will live in depends on the decisions we make now about how to empower the rest of the world’s women. By giving women choices and education, information and resources regarding family planning, including natural family planning, women will have access to the tools they need to make decisions about their family’s future. We can help build a world in which every woman and girl – and everyone man and boy – can grow up as blessed as you and me.