A Profile in Giving: Michelle Shin

Hope, Kindness and Love in the Little Things, in Patches of Green

“Nature Sacred’s initiatives are place-based and people-focused.  I’m so glad to support Nature Sacred because the little that I can give probably goes a long way, more than I even think, in terms of supporting the team and making the projects come to life.”

From small town Wisconsin to the recreational forests outside Seoul, South Korea, from the bike lanes of Copenhagen, Denmark to the woods of northern New York, nature has been a thread connecting Michelle Shin to her family, to cities she’s called home and to the communities she’s joined and created. 

Michelle’s bicycle leans against a tree at Cornell Botanic Gardens.

During her elementary school days in Seoul, Michelle’s formative experiences with nature occurred not during recess in the schoolyard but instead on impromptu excursions with her family. Having grown up on the southern tip of the country near the ocean and forests, Michelle’s father missed nature once he moved to the city. He and her mother wanted to share this cherished part of his own childhood with their children, so they would pull Michelle and her sister out of school every other week to take them on adventures in recreation forests.

“Because of those memories, nature means ‘family’ to me,” shared Michelle. 

On one particularly memorable visit, a female forest ranger made a lasting impression on Michelle. This forest ranger was the first woman Michelle had met who enthusiastically shared her wisdom on nature’s rejuvenating and healing properties. She showed Michelle and the group how to make crafts from easily overlooked natural elements like branches and leaves. On a guided hike, she’d have them pause to listen to birds, to smell the trees, and forage medicinal herbs — all while introducing and explaining the health impacts of nature on humans.   

Michelle once again felt the positive impacts of connecting nature and people during her study abroad in Copenhagen, where she fully embraced the culture of urban biking. The country’s cyclist-friendly infrastructure allowed her to not only have an active means of transportation but also to discover the landscapes and connect with the country’s nature. Michelle reflected, “Biking made me feel a sense of community with people I didn’t even know. It became a vehicle for me to connect with Copenhagen’s culture and landscape in a way I wouldn’t have any other way.”

The Sacred Place at the American Geophysical Union.
A recent journal entry selected by Michelle.

Upon returning to Cornell University, Michelle’s immediate purchase was a bike. Through all weather, including snow, she would cycle up and down the hills of Ithaca, New York. Her favorite and most frequented spot was the Cornell Botanic Gardens, an all-uphill excursion. “[I would] go there every day just to soak in the sunset. There was no one around — just birds chirping, the breeze, and my bike,” stated Michelle. When choosing where to live after graduation, Michelle searched for a city with the pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure that would allow her to continue to be connected with the community and landscapes — she chose Washington, DC.

While walking to Dawson’s Market one day, Michelle discovered — just by chance like so many do — the Sacred Place at the American Geophysical Union. The curve of the Nature Sacred signature bench, with its pocket beneath, caught her eye. Recalling that first visit, Michelle reflected, “There are people out there who can truly benefit from something as simple as a bench, a journal to write in, all while in a little pocket of green within a busy city.

 It gives me hope to read these journal entries and to walk and find nature.”

Today, each time she passes this Sacred Place, Michelle notices and celebrates the increasing number of people who have also discovered this spot: “There will always be more stories, more conversations held on this bench. Just this idea brings me so much contentment and optimism.

“I fully support what Nature Sacred is doing – engaging communities and building Sacred Places for all.”

As a frequent visitor to a nearby Sacred Place, a member of Nature Sacred’s DEI Committee and a donor, Michelle shared her personal “why” behind her investment in our shared vision:

“I want future generations to know that there were wonderful people who altruistically created these Sacred Places. There’s hope in the little we do to be kind to one another, to love one another and that can start in a nearby nature space.”