Roy Exum: The Man And The Tree

Thursday, May 26, 2022 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

During my Morning Readings one day last week I came across an essay that appeared in the Epoch Times on October 27, 2020 entitled ‘The Man’s Pledge.’ It is one of many stories from the newspaper’s readers to its “Dear Next Generation” where the idea is to plant … well, figuratively take a seed pod from an older tree and nurture a seedling that will grow into a new tree.

The story was written by a man named Richard Schlatter in Michigan. It is a tale he first shared with his granddaughter and later developed into a children’s book. I hope you’ll relish this as much as I did:

* * *

THE OLE MAN’S PLEDGE

(Written by Richard Schlatter for The Epoch Times, Oct.

27,2020)

No matter how old we are, life teaches us new lessons every day.

I am 76 and still learning. Just a few years ago, while in my 60s, I learned an important life lesson that I shared with my then 5-year-old granddaughter, and now I would like to share it in this column.

Many years ago, we purchased the home we still live in today. The only tree in the backyard was a small maple tree, close to the patio. I wished the tree were bigger so it would give more shade. As the years went by, the tree got bigger and I got older.

I eventually added a three-seasons room over the patio and built a deck near the tree. I added plantings, including a small pond with a waterfall, under the tree. At night, I illuminated the tree with a spotlight. I really loved that tree. It was like we were friends.

However, even though the tree was now big and covered my deck and yard with shade during the hot summer, it also covered my roof with seed pods in the spring, which caused my gutters to clog up. As I got older, it became more of a problem every year.

Then one spring, frustrated with clogged gutters and my roof covered with seed pods, in a snap decision, I called a tree service company and had the tree cut down.

Within a few short hours, all that was left was a big stump. I walked over to the stump and sat down on it. As I sat there in the hot sun, I thought about the many years we spent together. I thought about the cool shade it provided, but now the shade was gone. I thought about the home the tree provided for songbirds like cardinals and chickadees. I thought about the beautiful color the tree displayed in the fall. I felt really sad, like I had just lost my best friend.

I thought, “Even though the tree annoyed me in the spring by shedding its seed pods, why did I get rid of such a good friend with so many good qualities? What if my friends cut me down or got rid of me because I had a bad habit?”

I felt sick. My friend, the maple tree, was gone. I realized that it took a lifetime to build a friendship, but one bad decision ended that friendship forever. As I sat there on the stump, I looked down at the ground and saw a few seed pods from the tree on the ground. Then I got an idea.

I picked one up, and planted it in a small pot of dirt. Within months, a small seedling the small tree in my seedling began to grow. The following spring, I planted the small tree in my backyard, not far from where the old maple tree once stood. I knew that I would never enjoy its shade, but hoped that the next owner of my house would not only enjoy its shade, but its color in the fall and the sweet sounds of the songbirds perched on its branches.

This event in my life taught me three important lessons. First, it takes a long time to develop a friendship. Treat your friends with respect and never do or say anything hurtful, because you might lose your friend forever. Second, think first before taking action. Don’t act in haste or out of frustration. There were other solutions to my seed-pod problem—like adding gutter guards—but I didn’t think it through. And finally, we are all stewards of the earth. If we cut down a tree, it’s important to plant a new one.

After sharing my story with my granddaughter, I was inspired to write and illustrate a children’s book, “The Old Man and The Tree.” Over the past several years, I have visited thousands of second-grade students in classrooms all over Michigan, reading my story. At the end of each presentation, I give each child an autographed copy of my book. However, before they get a book, I ask them to recite the “Old Man’s Pledge” with me:

“I promise to never cut down my friends.”

Richard Schlatter
Michigan

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royexum@aol.com


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