“I look into the air and find the spaces where our children’s children might be; among the rain and the sun and the leaves those bodies are realizable; and I feel with a terrible hope how lovely life is – and how unbearable is the thought that by our blindness, by our lack of memory and courage, by our slackness we could end it.”
– Susannah York
The Future Is Fragile
The story is told of a great scholar who was walking along the road one day and saw an elderly man planting a carob tree. He asked the man, “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?”
The man replied, “Seventy years.”
Surprised, he asked the man, “And do you think you will live another seventy years and eat the fruit of this tree?”
The man answered, “Perhaps not. However, when I was born, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren, so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.”
The future is fragile because it is created by choices we make long before it’s time has come. One of the purposes of human society is that it provides a way for each of us to participate in building things that are bigger than any one of us could accomplish alone.
We were all born into a world where others who came before us built roads, planted forests, laid cable for our phones and created an electrical grid to power our homes. Generations before us sacrificed pieces of their own prosperity so that the lives of future generations – our lives – would be improved.
I wonder what the legacy of our generation will be when our grandchildren and their children look back at our lives.
What sacrifices are we willing to make to ensure that they will be born into a world that is better than the one that we inherited?
Will we spend all that we have for our short-term gain and pleasure or will we invest in the wellbeing of future generations?
Each of us needs to answer the question of balancing today’s pleasures with the needs of tomorrow. How much do we spend and how much do we save and invest?
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am only for myself, who am I?
If not now, when?”
When reading the news of the day it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need but it is important to remember that although at times we may feel helpless – we are never powerless to do something.
We may not be able to feed everyone but we can feed one person who is hungry.
We may not be able to provide safe housing for everyone who needs it but we can help one person find shelter – even if it is for just one night.
The beauty of living in a caring community is that the whole burden doesn’t belong to any one individual – we are only asked to do what we can, with what we have, where we are.
2004 Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai who was honored for her work in the Greenbelt Movement that had planted over 51 million trees in Kenya to build climate resilience, empower communities, especially women and girls; to foster democratic space and sustainable livelihoods says:
“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and hope.”
In that spirit I encourage you to look around your community and plant some seeds of peace and hope so that future generations will enjoy the fruits of our well-lived lives.