By Colton Smith
I haven't always been the happy optimistic person that I am today. When I was younger I had my share of ups and downs. As is true I'm sure for most, it took me a while to learn who I truly was. During college on a weekend no different then any other, I took a trip to Glacier National Park. One day in Glacier was all it took. Standing amidst those majestic mountains I realized how incredibly vast this world is. Beauty like that humbles you while simultaneously empowering you. That day nature taught me the first of what is now many lessons, this world is so much bigger then I am. Looking back on it, a good humbling was exacting what I needed. If I had never got it, I never would have received the second part of that lesson. That though this world is larger than we can comprehend, our voices can make a difference. That is how nature empowers you.
Finding that unusual balance between nature's humbling and empowerment helped shape the person I am today. If I have a problem, I now look to derive the answer from deep in the wilderness. At first, I viewed nature as an escape. However, as time has passed, I've found it to be quite the opposite. It's where I go to gain perspective on life and my problems. Ultimately, it's where I go to receive the strength I need to confront whatever might stand in my way. I've done it for the last 6 years of my life, and not once have the mountains and rivers failed me.
I've often wondered why that is. Why, no matter what, I could find peace there. Especially when elsewhere in the world, peace seems to elude us. Right now, the world seems to be engulfed in a downward spiral of chaos. In the midst of negativity though, positivity stands out, the way a single candle brings light to a dark room. Glacier and the National Parks have been my candle. To me, they represent something pure, and what I consider good in this world.
That's what has helped me, and at times, healed me - focusing on the good. Nature is not all that's pure in this world. There's a long list of incredible things. We just choose not to focus on them. I believe there's a constant battle between good and evil. Everyday we're reminded of that. Each week, the world sees more death and despair. At times, it appears that evil is winning the battle. It's not. The world has always been full of elements of good and evil. In today's world, we just learn about tragedy faster. People will watch the news and wonder why they seem to only focus on negativity. It’s quite simple. We pay more attention to the bad than the good. That needs to stop if we ever hope for a brighter future. Really - the outcome of all of this is up to us. We've stopped focusing on the good, and instead have become consumed with negativity. Rather than take comfort in the smile of a stranger, we look at the color of their skin and view them as an enemy. If we continue this pattern, then maybe evil in fact will win.
I think it's safe to say we've tried that approach before. We base actions out of fear, put up walls and separate those different from us. Those whom we believe hate us. As a result we end up brandishing our own for of hate. What's even more terrifying is our acceptance of hate. Feelings of animosity have become our status quo. We find negativity and we latch on to it, expecting more to follow. Instead, live your life searching and expecting love. You’ll find it. For if you live searching for fear, you’ll find that as well.
I'm not saying that nature has given me all the answers but it did give me an idea of where to start. Focus on the good in the world. Focus on what makes us all the same rather than what makes us different. Find the things that bring you happiness then spread that positivity and love like wildfire.
The first hike I ever did in Glacier was to the top of the ptarmigan tunnel. This past summer I found myself back in Glacier hiking that trail for the first time in six years. When I we reached the other side of the tunnel everything nature has taught me over the years came flooding back. However this time it didn’t seem to be ambiguous. It was concise even stern. It was almost as if God himself was tapping me on the shoulder saying, “Look around you, look at the beauty in front of you. Don’t ever think that this world is not full of good.” Every day we are given a new opportunity to try something different. Let's not waste it. Become apart of the kindness that makes this world so beautiful.