In 1975 we planted a small tulip poplar in the front yard of the house where our family would live for the next 30 years. By the time the children went off to college, our tree had grown to a height of more than 50 feet. With that tree in mind we recently decided to plant a tree in the yard of our new home. At our age we wanted something that would grow quickly and provide shade for the front of the house.
We thought we’d buy a tree for about $40, bring it home in the trunk of our car, dig a hole and plant it.
Things have changed since 1975.
The nursery didn’t sell any trees small enough to fit in the trunk of our car. We picked a linden tree and with delivery and planting charges the cost went something beyond $40. After we chose our linden tree, we discovered some people think these trees have a sweet scent in June while other people think the odor is just awful. We wondered whether our neighbors would like the scent of our tree blowing into their yard, or if they would be sorry we had made such a poor choice.
We drove back to the nursery and picked out a sugar maple instead of the linden tree. That afternoon, we realized the maple would be growing in a perfect spot to drop tons of seeds directly into our gutters. We cancelled the order for a tree. Someone pointed out by the time the maple grew large enough to be a problem we probably wouldn’t be here. While that may be true, something bothered us about this type of thinking.
The most common view today seems to be not to worry as long as we are comfortable. When people have enough energy to run appliances and cars and enough food to eat, it is easy to imagine the future will take care of itself.
Another way of thinking is to realize all the small choices we make will have a profound effect on the quality of life for our children and grandchildren.
The first way of thinking sees the earth as a resource meant to be used. The second way sees the earth as a trust to be passed on healthy and whole for future generations.
This is the time of year everyone seems interested in growing something. Before long neighbors will be sharing tomatoes, green peppers and more zucchini than most of us want to think about.
The Gospel for June 17 reminds us that even a mustard seed will become larger than we imagine. Planting with the future in mind we understand we are part of something greater than ourselves. With our hearts rooted in faith, we care whether what we plant will clog gutters or provide welcome shade for generations to come.
Deacon Jim and Ann Cavera live in Bowling Green. They write both separately and together and are the authors of “Grounded in God,” available through Liguori publishing or Amazon.com.