What Can Trees Teach Us About Loving Each Other?

Once a week I compile the reflections I’ve offered on Facebook into one blogpost. I am a little behind this month, so here are some thoughts from the second half of June.

June 21st, 2018

The voice on the radio asked, “Why are black children in the United States six times more likely to drown than white children?”

William was with me in the kitchen, and he cocked his head when he heard the question. “Why is that, Mom?”

I threw it back at him. “Why do you think?”

“Racism?” he asked, in a tone of voice that implied he knows this is the “right” answer, kind of like saying “Jesus” in Sunday School.

“Well, yes,” I said. “But how does racism work itself out in that way?”

His furrowed brow told me he was thinking. “White people won’t save black children when they’re drowning?” he asked.

“I don’t think that’s it,” I said. “Let’s think about this a little more. What does it take to learn how to swim?”

“Parents who know how to swim?” he said.

“Well, sure, that would be part of it. What does it take for parents to learn how to swim?”

“Um, well, also parents who know how to swim. Oh, and water to swim in? Wasn’t there a time where black people weren’t allowed to swim with white people in the same places?”

“Exactly,” I said. “There are other factors as well, but there’s a history here that began with injustice and even now has consequences–tragic, real, life and death consequences for kids.”

We talked a little bit more about how racism works. Yes, sometimes as overt horrors , but also through discriminatory laws and policies that have an effect even when those laws and policies aren’t on the books any longer. Racism can be easy to spot when someone makes awful comments, but the more insidious forms of racism work in subtle ways, ways that we won’t see unless we are willing to look for them and recognize how cultural factors from past and present combine to affect the safety (and enjoyment) kids can have playing in the water in the summertime.

Here’s the full episode of the radio program we were listening to: http://bit.ly/2lrmfA6

June 22, 2018

“There is a practical utility to Scripture reading. But prayer? Prayer is absurd, inefficient, immeasurable. Stupid. Unless it’s true that God exists, interacts, and cares, in which case prayer is an inexhaustible gift to my spirit.”

I wrote those words a few years ago, and I just received an email letting me know that they made it onto the “Notable Quotes about Prayer” list: http://bit.ly/2yyeHVL

If you have five seconds, you can help more people see this quotation about prayer by clicking on the link above and “liking” the quote!

June 29th, 2018

I gave a talk on a passage from Ephesians 3 a few weeks ago in which I talked about what it means to be “rooted and established in love.” It’s an image that provoked me to think about trees and how trees work. I already knew that tree roots provide stability during storms and that they are conduits of nourishment. What I didn’t understand is how the roots system of trees connects trees to one another.

I’m learning more by reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. So much fascinating information in these pages, but here is today’s nugget: “Each beech tree grows in a unique location, and conditions can vary greatly in just a few yards. The soil can be stony or loose. It can retain a lot of water or almost no water… Accordingly, each tree experiences different growing conditions; therefore, each tree grows more quickly or more slowly and produces more or less sugar or wood, and thus you would expect every tree to be photosynthesizing at a different rate. And that’s what makes the research results so astounding. The rate of photosynthesis is the same for all the trees. The trees, it seems, are equalizing the differences between strong and weak.”

For us as humans, when we put our roots down into love, that love stabilizes us, nourishes us, and it also connects us to others so that we can give and receive love one to another.