In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service. This makes 2016 its 100th birthday. Midwest Traveler reported the Park Service is responsible for more than 400 sites including parks, memorials, historical sites, trails, recreation areas and others (May-June 2016). It describes a few of those places and includes some lovely pictures.
Midwest Traveler is not the only magazine touting our scenic parks. I have also seen articles in National Geographic and Smithsonian. I’m sure there are others I have missed. As I read the glowing tributes, I was struck by how few sites I have visited. I wondered why a person of my age had not seen more of this beautiful country.
I arrived at several answers. The first is economics; it is expensive to travel to many of these exotic places. A second reason is time. Pastoral ministry has a way of consuming all of one’s time.
Probably the major reason is for the last 36 years I have been privileged to live in rather park-like settings. There has been little need to travel to see trees or land or water. I have been surrounded by them. Today, as I have many times before, I thank God for that blessing in my life.
As I enjoy the blessings of where I live, I am delighted to know my country has provided the National Park Service. Much of our nation lives in confinement — people are not incarcerated but for whatever reason, their place of abode does not offer the glory of God’s earth.
For example, while in the hospital some years ago I had a room with a “view.” From my “view” I could see the walls and rooftops of the rest of the hospital — less than intriguing.
All the articles mentioned above emphasize the Park Service as belonging to the citizenry: “This land is your land.” Well, yes and no. There are several things to note when considering it our land. First, we share “this land” with many others and must remember that as we enjoy it.
Second, this land is only temporarily ours. It belonged to someone before us and will belong to someone after us.
Most notably, we must remember it really belongs to God, “It is he that hath made [it] and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3, KJV). Rather than say, “This land is your land,” it would be better to declare, “This land is his land!”
Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column, “The Shepherd Calls.”