I would love to say that I did nothing but fish over the holidays, but the truth is I didn't get to wet a line once. Why? Because I spent the past few days in Tampa visiting my son Logan, who had flown in from Los Angeles where he now lives and works for Americorp, a nonprofit organization that is like a domestic Peace Corp.
Logan's love for the outdoors had a lot to do with his choice of careers. If you are wondering how this love for the outdoors has anything to do with working within the nonprofit sector, then let me explain. In a nutshell, it all has to do with patience and caring, two components that seem to be a constant with nearly every avid outdoorsman I have ever known.
Since my son was barely old enough to talk, I would take him with me whenever I would go fishing or just messing around in the outdoors. In those early days I can still remember that he seemed more interested with playing with the bait than he was with fishing. At the time, I didn't know what to think of it. I didn't want to push him into something he didn't have an interest in, but the more I thought about it, I would much rather he be out there with me than sitting in front of the TV or computer, so I let him play with the bait all he wanted. Like so many parents, I wanted him to avoid the mistakes I had made in my younger years, and the best way to do that was by steering him in directions that hopefully would keep him away from some of the early pitfalls that had caused me anxiety and stress.
As each year passed, I began to notice that he was developing patience. For example, when he was around 7 years old, he was able to focus on fishing for about 15 minutes before he would put down his fishing rod and do something else. By the time he was 10 that span had grown to an hour and now that he is 23 years old, he will fish from dawn till dusk and even longer if I was able to keep up with him. You might think this is the way it goes with all kids, but to me it was the outdoors that taught him the wonderful attribute of patience.
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We all know that L.A. isn't known for its fishing, but Logan did find that it is a great place for hiking. Living on the outskirts of L.A. proper, he and a few friends hike nearly every weekend. They head up to the mountains one week and to the coast around Catalina Island the next and after every trip, I am rewarded with long-winded descriptions of the things they saw and did. This is where the caring part of his personality comes in. It is hard to tell people who have no interest in the outdoors how "caring" is one of nature's rewards, but I'm going to give it a shot.
I've thought about some reasonable answer and I think it all boils down to seeing things that others never see. For instance, have you ever seen two bald eagles locked up tumbling head over tail and free falling for more than 1,000 feet before breaking apart? Or have you ever experienced a manta ray, easily 24-feet across, gliding just under the surface of the water an arm's length away from the boat? Or maybe while fishing offshore have you had the opportunity to witness a 500-pound marlin -- brightly lit with pulsating colors -- as it zig-zags right behind a trolled bait before opening its massive mouth and devouring the bait in the blink of an eye?
It's so humbling that you have no choice but to care that this natural world be protected so that generations to come will have the same opportunity to witness these amazing sights just as you have.
Before I headed back to Bluffton, Logan and I talked a lot about his future and where it might take him. He seemed pretty definite that he wanted to stay in the nonprofit sector -- not because he would find wealth in the normal sense of the word but rather wealth in a spiritual sense. To say I was proud is an understatement and though I would love to take credit for his patience and caring, I know that nature and his love of the outdoors were his real teachers.