If you look carefully, stories can be found everywhere. Certainly within the pages of a book, within an epic adventure, a heartbreaking love story, the greatest achievements and tragedies of our nation, or the perseverance of one willing to lay down their life for a good cause.
But if you look carefully, stories can be found in the smallest of places. In every one of us. Discovered in those moments we take to breathe, smile at a stranger, or marvel at something beautiful. Stories are caught swaying through rocking chair reminiscences of a couple married for 40 years. They can be seen dancing around the crackles and pops of a campfire. Stories are enfolded in the embrace of siblings as they joke about their past quarrels. They are whispered while sailing through a beacon of light guiding a boat home. If you look carefully, stories are all around you, encircling you, changing you, beseeching you to create more. So that as your own story unfolds, as it meanders through life, it intertwines with those of peers, loved ones, and random strangers.
My story may never directly collide with your story, but your story reminisces, dances, and whispers among the other stories of the Universe. As does mine. Your story is now our story.
My own story, like most, is an incomplete patchwork of parts that have led me here: to great accomplishments, to unfortunate failures, to attending college, to working with an agency that is just as passionate about sharing stories as I am. Volunteering in and exploring National Parks is an ode to discovering the unknown—learning from one another and preserving those stories for future generations. It is a call to action to continue to seek adventure and create memories on a day to day basis, even in your own backyard. After a few days spent traveling through Mount Rainier National Park—gazing in wonder at the old-growth in the Grove of the Patriarchs, whispering quietly while watching a plump marmot chomp on wildflowers, feeling the spray of water on my skin at Silver Falls—I realized I created a story, another part to add to my life’s anthology. A story that I could tell to my children or closest friends or even the chance fellow I sit next to on the bus and never see again. It is a simple story that could become fuel to a fire—it could spark embers and create flames that encourages someone to change the world.
That night, resting under the guardianship of a silhouette of trees and stars in Mount Rainier National Park, I was overcome with a blazing sense of peace as I became aware of the all the parts. A knowledge that no person is defined by one title or reputation and no story is defined by one moment or event. The same is true of National Parks. Mount Rainier is only one park and my story is only one story. But parks, just like you and me, are not defined by only one part—by trees or a scenic landscape. Parks can be historic landmarks or museums for preserving America’s heritage like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. They can be urban dwellings like Golden Gate National Recreation Area or archaeological sites like Mesa Verde National Park. There are massive biodiversity preserves like Everglades National Park or vast open skies like Yosemite National Park. But parks are found all across the country, in a local playground, on a green baseball field, at a dinner table, or just in the grass of your own backyard. Regardless of your background, race, culture, social status, job title, or how many followers you have on Instagram and Twitter, stories can be created in all parks, across all backdrops, by any person, at any moment. Each of us, every single person on this planet, is an explorer, a collector, a storyteller, a teacher, a world-shaker—an important, glorious, and unforgettable part to the never-ending story of the human race. And I promise you, if you go out, look for the parts crisscrossing all around you, there isn’t one person you can’t learn something from, that won’t change you or leave you better off than before you met them. In the same way, there isn’t one park or setting that can’t fire up wonderful moments or create beautiful memories worth sharing. My story is full of parts and your story is full of parts and together, our parts are beautifully woven with many colors, countless experiences, various backdrops, and scores of once in a lifetime chances.
My own story is your story because we see each other, we listen to each other, and we care for each other. You are a part of my story. I am a part of your story. And together we create our story. Our story is one where we learn and grow with one another—where we ignite a fire for one another. Our story is one that can raise our spirits to the sky, break our hearts, or give us confidence to conquer the world. Truth be told, the story we all make together is the most beautiful one of all. It is wrapped up across starry night skies and safeguarded in the depths of the ocean and protected by the hands of the Universe we all share. Here lies the extraordinary part of our story, the defining element of being human—the capacity to impart compassion, to appreciate a different culture, to tell someone, “I don’t know you, but you inspire me.” And despite all our differences, this ability to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, to make up a small fraction of this infinite, breathtaking history, is something we all have in common. If you look carefully, stories can be found everywhere. In every one of us, at any definition of “a park”, across all walks of life.
Now, do you hear that? Your story is calling. Go out and find it, feed its flames, sing it to the heavens, because I can’t wait to listen to it, to be inspired by you.
~Emma, In My Backyard Intern