As I sat down under the dappled shade of an oak to write this blog post I took a moment to listen to the world around me.
The high pitched chicka-dee-dees of my black-capped friends. The scurry of squirrel feet scrabbling over bark. The scrunch of leaves under my feet. A cool breeze gently helping a butterfly soar higher than it has before. The babblegurgle of a brook, rushing to or from somewhere. The world around me was alive and peaceful, playing a symphony for an audience of one.
It got me thinking about what I take for granted. I've been "prowlin' and a growlin'" for 70 years now and sometimes you forget to take stock of the world around you. It's easy to think that what's here now will be here tomorrow, but it doesn't just happen. It takes you. Only you.
In the last seven decades I've had some amazing experiences, from traveling to space in a NASA space shuttle to traveling across the world on a postage stamp, from hanging out with Bambi in my first PSA to giving out hundreds of bear hugs to thank my loyal fans today.
No matter where I've been or what I've done, I've been a bear on a mission, with a singular purpose in mind - to remind you that only you can prevent wildfires. Most wildfires (nearly 9 out of 10 nationwide) are started by humans, so it's up to you all to be safe with fire, to help keep unwanted fires from starting.
And because so many of you have helped prevent wildfires -- we've gone from 22 million acres burned annually when I was born in 1944 to fewer than 7 million on average today -- I want to reward you in a way like never before and it's all part of my extended birthday celebration:
• Share new PSAs from my friends at the Ad Council, U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and FCB showing you how you can earn a #SmokeyBearHug
• Add your birthday wish to an interactive ecard from my friends at HelpsGood (We're trying to break the world record for most signatures!)
• Check out new GIFs on my Instagramand the infographic on my Tumblr
• Take my Wildfire Pledge
• Write me a snail mail letter - address it to Smokey Bear with zip code 20252 (yep, I'm the only bear with my own zip code)
Or just give your own #SmokeyBearHug to a friend today and remind them "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires." Sometimes you need to help people listen to the world around them.