Recently, a friend posted the following graphic on Facebook:
This really hit me hard. As the mother of three girls, I see and hear all too often so many judgements and criticisms of others. While we’ve tried very hard to raise children who are kind, loving, and tolerant, it’s so very easy for all of us to fall into the trappings of a society that thrives on comparisons, disparages, and denunciations. Sometimes we even fall prey to these weaknesses with each other.
Of my three daughters, two of them are outspoken, free-thinking, and often exasperating in their insistence that they know best for themselves and others. But one daughter is quiet, introspective, and much more tolerant of everyone. She’s more emotional, more insecure, and more likely to see her own faults and weaknesses. She’s most certainly the tree that stands alone in the woods, the one that is struggling to reach the light, the one that needs its own space but is woefully dependent upon the others. That’s a thing, you know. Some scientists and naturalists believe that “trees of the same species are communal, and will often form alliances with trees of other species. Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence similar to an insect colony.“
I’ve seen this play out over and over again within our own family. Our daughter wants to be independent and self-assured, but one biting word or harsh look from one of her sisters or a peer, and she’s once again the bent tree, desperately in need of light. And it isn’t just her sisters and peers that have this affect on her. I’m afraid that I’m a major contributor to her feelings of inadequacy. A high-achiever, perfectionist, and admittedly intolerant when it comes to others’ faults, I often have a hard time being the “good” parent. I want to, but my own fears for her future lead me to say and do things that don’t help at all. Thank Heaven for Ken, who is able to relate to her on a level that I am never able to. Sometimes, I just have to give him a look, and he knows that he needs to step in. He’s so patient, loving, and kind in those times when I’m pulling out my hair in frustration. Tree expert, Peter Wohlleben, tells us that “young saplings in a deeply shaded part of the forest…survive because big trees, including their parents, pump sugar into their roots through the network.” Thankfully, Ken is there when our daughter needs to be pumped up by his strength.
But here’s the strange thing – I, too, was that tree in the woods that wanted so desperately to be more than I thought I was – to have the greener leaves, richer soil, more abundant birds nesting in my branches, and a greater amount of light shining on me. Though I think I hid it well, I was always insecure, never trusting that my friends were really my friends, always striving to be more than I felt I was, never sure that I was… enough.
Today, I know that I am what I am. I am enough. I am exactly who and what God intended me to be. I suppose I am on my way to being like the oldest, tallest, and sturdiest trees in the forest. As Professor Suzanne Simard says, “Mother trees are the biggest, oldest trees in the forest…nurturing, supportive, maternal. With their deep roots, they draw up water and make it available to shallow-rooted seedlings. They help neighboring trees by sending them nutrients, and when the neighbors are struggling, mother trees detect their distress signals and increase the flow of nutrients accordingly.” Even having been a mother for over twenty-two years, I am still working on dispensing that flow of nutrients when and how they are needed, but I certainly see that that we are all–families, friends, communities–dependent upon each other. We were all created by God, and all are works of wonder.
Some of us are tall and sturdy. Some are thin and weak. Some need more nutrients than others. Some are green and vibrant all the time while others have the need to go dormant for periods of time. Some have long branches that reach out to everyone, some have deep roots that give stability, and some have leaves that quake like the Colorado aspen, shining and waving to others, welcoming them into the fold.
We should all be reaching out to others, providing stability, welcoming others in. We should all see each other as trees, accepting those who seem less than worthy, providing strength to those who are like struggling saplings, and nourishing others with whatever they need–be it food, shelter, friendship, or just a kind word or deed.
I urge you to begin looking at each other differently. Even if these naturalists are literally barking up the wrong tree, and all of their assumptions about the interdependency of trees is rubbish, we can still learn a lot from the ecosystem that has created and sustained the world’s woodlands and forests. Sumard says, trees “live longest and reproduce most often in a healthy stable forest. That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.” Rather than judge, condemn, or criticize, we need to acknowledge and accept the gifts that each person has to offer. All we need to do is begin seeing each other as trees.
Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very delighted to be partnering with Sundial Books on Chincoteague for this celebration. All are welcome on Wednesday, July 24 from 1:00-3:00 at Sundial Books. For more details, click here.
The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).