When A Tree Falls in the Woods

Almost a week ago, the members of the AmeriCorps St Louis Emergency Response Team (AC STL ERT) arrived in Montana. Located just out of Butte, we are based out of a single Forest Service Cabin up in the mountains for the next couple weeks.

One of the first days here, we watched in fascination as the winds ripped through the pass above us, down the mountain side, and through our camp, bringing a blast of cold air down on us. The air tore through camp, cutting through the thin layers of fabric that we wore and caught the Yurt and tents that have been set up for our sleeping quarters (nobody is sleeping within the cabin).

In all this chaos of wind, we could hear the sounds of trees snapping and crashing to the ground. The grove of Aspen trees next to camp lost several trees through the night and into the next several days as a winter storm rolled through, dropping 5-6 inches of snow around us.

But in that moment, I smiled as I turned to one of my teammates and simply stated, “I guess a tree falling in the woods does make a sound.”

It isn’t much, but at times we find our selves asking if we are truly making a difference, even if nobody sees us, notices us, or comments on the work we do.

So many times we just don’t notice what others do. We don’t realize the impacts of their work, even if we walk pat it every day. Look at the work the Forest Service does. Or teachers. Street cleaners. Garbage disposal workers. Public Works offices.

The only time we take note is when they stop.

We’ve all been affected by this Government Shutdown in some way or another. We no longer show up to work each day due to the fact that so many of us work for the government. We are unsure if our paychecks will go through. Our projects are no longer funded, so they sit unfinished. We can no longer visit the places that this nation holds dear, because they are run by the government.

The trees continue to fall, and they only make noise if someone is listening. Or so we thought. They have always made noise, we just were never close enough to notice the destructive force of nature.

I’ve heard so many people speak of riots, chaos, and the fall of our nation due to this shutdown, and so many people are pointing fingers of blame. But if we think about it, we are all at fault. We were the ones that voted our President, Senators and Congressmen into office, but never kept track of what they did while there. We continued to support them, even if they didn’t follow through with their campaign promises of change.

Yes, it’s like a schoolyard full of children, but we all stood by and watched it happen.

This in no way is a call of revolution, to take to the streets in protest and riots, but it is a reminder that we need to listen when the trees start crashing down in the wind. We need to pay attention to what those individuals that we elected are doing in our names. And we need to hold each other accountable for our actions, inaction, and our unwillingness to act.
I’m sorry fortune rant, but this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to share since I’ve arrived in Montana and the [poop] hit the fan.

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