At a time in American history when there are more than 300 million citizens dotting the landscape, it is all too easy for us to think it impossible for one person to make much of a difference.
Our inclination is to leave the business of a democracy to the select few–the politicians and their appointees. We retreat into the comfort and safety of our private lives and forsake public service.
We leave "looking after the public good" to someone else.
Service Living: Building Community Through Public Parks and Recreation challenges us to reconsider what it means to be responsible citizens in a participatory democracy. It asks us to see ourselves not only as individuals, but as part of a much larger unfolding story–the growth and development of a nation.
It suggests that we have both the opportunity and the obligation to become engaged in public life and that such engagement defines a life worth living.
The book suggests further that self-fulfillment, if it is to come our way, will be a byproduct of that engagement.
We make our case by telling the stories of four individuals who made remarkable contributions to our nation's history: Frederick Law Olmsted, Jane Addams, Benton MacKaye, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
In many respects, these four people were ordinary citizens going about their business, experiencing life's ups and downs, suffering through self-doubt, insecurity, and anxiety, just like the rest of us.
But they also transcended their individualism to do something extraordinary to promote the public good. They were living proof that each one of us can make a positive difference in this world if only we would try.
How they did it, and how we can do it as well, is through service living.
I Why Service Living?
II Painting With Lakes and Wooded Slopes: The Democratic Artistry of Frederick Law Olmsted
III Employing Sympathetic Knowledge: Jane Addams of Chicago's Hull House
IV A Wilderness Pathfinder: Benton MacKaye and the Appalachian Trail
V Our Lady of the Glades: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Florida's "River of Grass"
VI Democracy Is a Verb
VII Afterword: Why We Chose Frederick Law Olmsted, Jane Addams, Benton MacKaye, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas VIII Notes