South Africa’s – and the world’s – calendar is marked with days, weeks and months that call our attention to the value of improving the world around us.
The act of planting a tree, celebrated during Arbour Month in September every year, is particularly symbolic of the change we need to see.
This is painfully true in South Africa, where the exorbitant greed of state capture actors has almost brought our economy – and more recently, our power supply – to its knees. In contrast, the ritual of tree-planting can remind us of the best, rather than the worst, that we as people are capable of.
Before planting a tree, we make several conscious and deliberate choices. First, aware of the sapling’s vulnerability, we choose a spot that will enable it to thrive. Even at that early stage, we have a vision of the tree growing and spreading its branches, becoming a tree that birds will nest in and under which children will play.
The act of digging a hole connects us to the earth as we carefully place the tree, protecting its roots as we go. As with so many other activities in life, to create the future we want we must put in some work.
“Do we have a craving to contribute towards something bigger and better than ourselves?”
When the tree is planted, we nurture it by watering and feeding it, and then, importantly, leave it to grow. We trust that nature will build on our good intentions; that our environment will do the rest.
Planting a tree reminds us, as few other deeds can, how our relatively small acts of deliberately conscious goodwill can contribute enormously to the world around us. This impulse of goodwill lies at the heart of Arbour Week, Earth Day, Heritage Day, Mandela Day and every other day that we share on this beautiful planet
As South Africans, do we contribute to a culture of accumulating increasing wealth for ourselves alone, or do we choose to nurture the natural world and the lives of others? Do we have an inner craving to contribute towards something bigger and better than ourselves?
This is the awareness that could help to bring about the change we so badly need.