He was a friend, a guide and one of the coolest people I knew when I was a child.  I hung on his every word, upheld my pledge and wore my badge proudly.  Then, like so many of us, I forgot his words, his purpose and his reason for being.  Not until I was cleaning out some old boxes in my basement did I discover his wisdom again, and how relevant it still is.  I also am fortunate enough to share his knowledge with my son, almost 40 years after we first met.

If you do not know who I am talking about it is Ranger Rick, a child’s outdoor raccoon guide created by the National Wildlife Foundation back in 1967.  Together with Sammy Squirrel, Chester Chipmunk and Odora Skunk, these animals were the embodiment of the green movement decades before it ever began…or were these three the reason why it ever started in the first place?  All I know is that their home in the Deep Green Wood is an environmental example we could all learn from.

I find this topic of a raccoon teaching us about the world around us relevant as I found an old issue from the 1970’s and in their adventure they found an old tire in the woods that they recycled and gave a second life.  The groups messages were not just about recycling, but about giving us the tools to explore, and helping us realize that for every action there is a reaction that impacts the environment, either positive or negative.

Ranger Rick and his pals arrived on my doorstep every month for years and only now do I realize what gift they gave so many of us in our formative years – they gave us hope – they taught us that if we take action we can make a difference.  The words were not meant to give us the feeling that if we recycled a newspaper we could throw out a can and we would be “neutral”.

Ranger Rick stood side by side with us as we learned about the world around us and realized the impact that we can have if we act, or if we choose to do nothing.  I renewed my pledge last night with my three-year-old and, while he may not have understood the totality of the pledge he does have a new best friend…the Earth.  Maybe it is time we all listen to the wise raccoon and recite and live these words again, because it is never too late to start.

I promise…

to explore the wonders of nature around me,

to learn the importance of every living thing,

to live every day as Earth’s best friend, and to help others do the same!

Thanks for helping to change the world Ranger Rick.  I only hope that my son wears his badge as proudly as I wore mine!