The first house we bought came with an un-landscaped yard. Over the course of a few years we covered the barren clay with grass, a small garden, and a few bushes and trees. As we stuck those first little sticks into the ground, we laughed, knowing that these little trees would likely only mature long after we had moved out of the house. In fact, we hesitated to plant them at all, knowing that we were probably planting them for future owners’ enjoyment, not our own.
In our greedy moments, all of us think this way. “Why should my tax dollars go to a sports complex? I don’t even play sports!” the argument goes. We’re so accustomed to the question of “what’s in it for me?” that we’re not even surprised when even requests for donations are accompanied by a long list of benefits for benefactors.
There’s a Greek proverb that says,
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
It’s ignorant to think that “what’s mine is mine”, and “every man for himself” is how the world works, when we owe so much to those who have gone before us and to the generosity of others in our community, not to mention the one in whom “we live and move and have our being” (another Greek saying).
Like Jonah, we shrewdly count the seeds in our hand, resting in the shade of someone else’s tree.
Since those first twigs were planted in our first yard, we’ve moved to a new house, one with an established yard of someone else’s planting.
We planted a new tree in our front yard this summer, an Amur Maple that will hopefully turn a brilliant red in a few weeks’ time. While we were digging it into place, a neighbour walked by and thanked us. In doing so, she reminded me trees make the whole neighbourhood beautiful, and not just for their owners, but for all of us.