We May Never See the Shade

Recently, we were clearing trails at my summer job and one of my students who work on my crew came across two sapling oak trees and he asked if he could take them home. We asked what he planned to do with them and his reply was to plant them as shade trees. It was humbling and encouraging to hear his excitement and spirit about planting two trees that would take at least twenty years to produce adequate shade for his family’s enjoyment.

It is a question that rocks at the heart of our ‘instant-gratification’ culture: are we willing to take the actions that may not reap immediate rewards and honestly, we may not see come to fruition in our lifetimes? Oftentimes, this fear of not being able to see the shade stops us from planting the seed today. Let’s think about this from our own lives in the context of growing a sapling tree.

A sapling tree as any other perennial plant needs a variety of conditions that will allow it to be most successful in reaching long-term, healthy maturity: moisture, support, and time; let’s break these down further!

MOISTURE: All plants need water for survival. As young sapling trees, water is classified as the greatest limiting factor to healthy growth. Water’s presence helps to facilitate the absorption of essential minerals from the soil and is a crucial ingredient for glucose production in the leaves’ chloroplasts. Many times as the sapling’s caregiver we are the ones who will be trudging the hoses over to provide supplemental water or carrying buckets heaping with water to keep the saplings alive.

Anything worth dedicating energy and time to will require this constant source of moisture; maybe it is the infusion of fresh energy for a team, possibly a surprise thank you note to a long-time supporter. Our efforts are never done in isolation, therefore the value and importance of adequately “watering” our relationships cannot be overstated. Relationships built by deep roots of trust can endure even the greatest challenges, so we cannot diminish the critical value that investing in those relationships will have throughout our life.

SUPPORT: As young sapling trees they endure various stresses during those initial years of growth. Threats could come in the form of high winds that threaten to snap the teeny, delicate trunks; even a velveting deer that needs to rub its antlers can totally destroy a sapling. These saplings are virtually indefensible besides the support we provide in those first few years. Most recently planted trees will showcase the often used stake-support system, possibly a sun scalding screen wrap for the trunk, or even, protective fencing.

All these supports are used to ensure that the sapling has not only a chance at survival, but can thrive to provide the desired shade, fruit, or flowering qualities we planted the tree for originally. The same should be said of our lives; we all need and honestly, crave a support system. The lack of a support system leads down dark roads that no person should ever endure alone. This begs the questions, who is our support network…or even the more pressing question, who’s support network are we a key player in?

TIME: All saplings need a chance by gosh! Wouldn’t we look like fools if we gazed forlornly at our three year old sapling and said in anger, “RIP IT UP, it’s broken! Its just not growing fast enough!!” We often do not provide ourselves the grace or time to grow; whether that is the physical growth spurts we are experiencing with our uncoordinated body or the ability to adjust to new roles/responsibilities. Our lives cannot be built through the instant gratification culture mindset…it requires the long-term thinking, baby-step style thinking.

I can think of my personal stock market strategy, which often gets gawks and shaking heads by those with the quick-money mindset. I’m diligent about selecting stocks that demonstrate a clear market strategy through approved patents, partnership agreements, and are aimed at resolving a deep scientific or societal challenge that will affect us over the next half century. My plan is to hold on to these stocks for a minimum of twenty-years…a lot of people ask why, won’t you miss other opportunities? One could look at it that way for sure or we could view that these investments are the opportunities that will produce fruit in their time.

There is a powerful quote from a French Theologian which states, “Blessed are those who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.”

Are we willing? The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best day is today…what will we choose to do?

Thank you all so much for reading and sharing; I’m so excited to get back into a writing routine of a more regular pattern! Truly forgot how stress relieving and relaxing writing is for my mind and spirit! Hope everyone has a blessed and safe 4th of July Weekend!

Take care, Anthony

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