As I was rushing home from the store this morning, mentally going over my day’s unruly “to do” list, I became quite anxious and queasy. I already intuitively knew that I would once again fail at miraculously fitting it all in. As I absent-mindedly drove along the accustomed route, I abruptly slammed on my brake as the scarlet traffic signal suddenly registered in my foggy brain. That delay in awareness made me acutely aware of how oblivious I can be to the scenery of my day to day life. I suddenly felt compelled to purposely practice some mindfulness – a practice that I am ashamed to admit is quite foreign to me. Feeling the stress rising up in my tightening chest, I decided to give it an honest try and to fully notice all the intricate details of the moment. As I gazed across through the dirt streaked passenger window, I was reminded of the beautiful forest preserve that escorts me along this particular route. Taking deep, slow, methodic breaths, I began to observe the differences in the trees. I’m ashamed to divulge that I make my own life so hectic sometimes (usually self-inflicted insanity) that I rarely take time to fully appreciate the details of God’s blessings. I hurry past some of the most beautiful displays and miss being fully present in some of the most spectacular moments because of the craziness I perpetuate in my own head. I continued focusing intently on the trees until the car behind me began laying on its horn. Could it be that I was actually being so mindful of my present view that I didn’t even notice the light change back to green?
As I continued the drive home, I reflected on the trees of the forest as well as each individual tree that sporadically dotted the city streets. I was overwhelmed with a thought that warranted further contemplation…
I think I can safely say that when any of us are walking through the woods on a beautiful autumn day, that we are instantly overwhelmed with the forest’s collective beauty. We tilt our heads up to the sky and feel the slight warming of the near-winter sun. The sounds of our usual hectic day are noticeably replaced with a conspicuous stillness. The quiet is only broken by the sound of frost-covered leaves and twigs cracking beneath our weighted steps, or an occasional small animal scurrying about in the distance. As we slowly turn ourselves to take in the view in from all directions…our faces soften with a contented calmness as we are overtaken with the sheer delight of our surroundings.
As I contemplate that scenario, it hits me profoundly. We are capable of seeing the collective beauty of the forest and never once feel compelled to critique an individual tree. I know that I have never stared at a giant oak and said “that tree is far too big.” Instead, I have found myself awestruck by the oak’s majesty. I have never looked at a tree whose gigantic trunk was covered with oddly shaped protruding bulbs and thought “that tree is ugly.” I think most of us would instead be thinking how cool it was. We’d probably even go so far as to walk up to the tree and run our hands along its unique bumps and textures. I don’t recall ever looking up a tree who’s branches were completely bare and reasoned that, “it would be an okay tree…if only it had a few more leaves.” I would never give a second thought to its appearance – recognizing only that it fit in perfectly just as it was. I have never looked at a weeping willow and concluded that its branches were far too long and that it would be more beautiful if only some of the longer ones were trimmed. Instead, I’d probably be envisioning the eventual return of summer and imagining myself sitting on a blanket beneath that willow and feeling the gentle sway of its long, drooping branches as I casually drew in my sketchbook. I have never looked at that one tree, defying normalcy as it grew at an angle opposite of all the others, and believed it to be off-putting.
Why all this talk about appreciating the trees of the forest? My dear, dear world… WE are the collective trees of the forest. Each of us brings our own unique beauty and purpose to this forest we call life. The mighty wondrous oak is not the only commanding presence that makes the forest beautiful. The weeping willow is not solely responsible for making the woods magical. The contribution of the bare-branched tree, the tree growing sideways across the river and tiny sapling just barely breaking ground are not without significance and purpose. Instead of judging and critiquing trees for their lack of conformity, we instead fully appreciate their individual distinctiveness. More importantly, we can see how their uniqueness perfectly contributes to the splendor of the forest.
I only wish people could view each other in the same way we are able see and value the diversity of the trees. Accepting each person for exactly who they are – without judgement. Appreciating what each brings to the collective whole. Together, we bring our unique beauty and distinctive purpose, to make our world amazing to behold.
My dear friends…WE ARE THE TREES OF A BEAUTIFUL FOREST!