We are the youngest family on our block. Most of my neighbors are either retired or retirement adjacent. It makes for a quiet existence. No parties, no loud music, just chirping birds, and the odd riding mower going up and down someone’s lawn. The only downside is that the girls don’t have anyone their age to play with, but you can’t have everything in life, and between having to drive them to a playdate every once in a while or watching my windows vibrate from the bass in my neighbor’s stereo, I choose the former.
My next-door neighbor has been retired for some time. Even with modern medicine being what it is, he is not long for this world, at least as far as decades are concerned. He may have a few good years left, but he’s not banking on seeing Halley’s comet again.
Although in recent days it’s been a bit cooler here in Wisconsin, yesterday was warm, bordering on hot, and the humidity was less than pleasant. As I was cleaning up the remnants of a water balloon fight in the backyard and feverishly wiping sweat from my forehead before it got into my eyes, I glanced over the fence and noticed my neighbor was digging a hole. I thought nothing of it at first, but as I continued combing the yard for pieces of latex, I’d throw a glance over the fence now and then.
A few minutes later, I realized what he was doing. My neighbor was planting a tree. For some reason, that simple act fascinated me. I said nothing, and simply watched him labor, and toil and sweat in the sun, planting a tree beneath whose shade he would never lay. It was an act of pure selflessness, and something rarely seen.
I toyed with the idea of going over and offering to help, but I decided against it. Somehow it would take away from his act or diminish it somehow if I’d gone in and started shoveling dirt. It was something he needed to do on his own, something he didn’t realize anyone was witnessing. It was something personal and meaningful, and I could see it in the way he went about gently putting the tree in the hole and patting the dirt around the roots.
This sort of mindset is dying out in our present generation, and we’re all the worse for it. Rather than plant a tree nowadays, most people take out reverse mortgages to finance some want, some toy, or distraction that they’ll grow tired of within the year. It’s not a matter of need, at least for the most part, and when it’s all said and done, their kids are left owing a few grand for the casket and the plot.
They think nothing of future generations, of their children’s children, and that shows top-down, rich to poor, and everywhere in between. We think nothing of squandering trillions of dollars we don’t have and can’t hope to pay off in our lifetime, because we would rather saddle our children with crippling debt than endure some discomfort in the present.
If enough people stop planting trees whose shade they have no expectation of laying beneath, eventually, there will be no trees for anyone to find shade under. The world used to be evenly divided between takers and givers, but the scales have tipped, and evermore, people feel entitled to take without once wondering whose doing all the giving. It’s Obama money; it’s Trump bucks, it’s Nancy nickels, it’s Schumer shekels. It magically appears in the coffers of government. Get yours! If you don’t, well, you’re just dumb.
Why sweat in the midday sun and plant a tree when you can sit beneath the shade of one already planted? Because, contrary to popular myth, the world doesn’t revolve around you, and if you continue to take without once considering who’s doing the giving, you’re just abusing the kindness of strangers. Eventually, given enough time, those doing the planting will notice the masses doing the sitting, and conclude that it’s just not worth the effort anymore. God help us all when that paradigm shift occurs.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.