This I Believe

Pat - Houston, Texas
Entered on February 7, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: legacy, nature
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I believe everyone should plant trees.

Every person, in his or her lifetime, should plant at least one tree and, hopefully, many more than that.

I started planting trees twenty years ago in my neighborhood in east Dallas. I started with four trees in my front yard, then planted one for my next door neighbor, then another neighbor, and eventually put together tree planting projects in the neighborhood. I caught the tree planting bug and have planted hundreds since then.

For the communities where I live, I want to help create an urban forest that adds beauty and life to a landscape increasingly built up with concrete and asphalt. I want to create cooler, more hospitable neighborhoods. Who, on a Houston summer day, would rather not drive or walk along a shaded street than a treeless sun-baked roadway?

I plant trees to give back to the Earth. It is my small effort to compensate for trees lost every day whether to deforestation of the Amazon or the clearing of trees here in Harris County to build roads and subdivisions. Planting trees has allowed me to overcome a feeling of helplessness about doing something meaningful for the environment.

Especially rewarding for me is planting trees with kids. My daughter and I have planted trees together on street esplanades, at home and at our church. Since arriving in Houston in 1999, I have had the privilege, each year, of planting a tree for her class on the school campus and teaching the kids how trees clean our air and make the world a more beautiful place. This year, I am planting dozens of trees along with my daughter and her middle school classmates to replace trees destroyed during Hurricane Ike.

I think planting trees is a good way to instill in kids an appreciation of nature. A few years ago, after a classroom tree planting, a mother called to say her son had gotten inspired to plant trees at home. Hearing that makes all the effort worthwhile. Hopefully, many more of these boys and girls will be inspired to plant trees someday with their kids and keep the cycle going.

I am closing in on 50, so many of the trees I am planting now will not reach their full glory until after I am gone. But that does not bother me because you really plant trees not for yourself, but for the benefit of those who come after you. I am satisfied just knowing that, years from now, someone may look upon a tree I have planted with appreciation or find respite in its shade.

That, I think, is what each of us profoundly hopes for – to leave behind something of lasting value, and to have actually made a positive difference in the world during our brief time here. After all, when I am gone, few will long remember details of my life. But the trees I have planted – they will live on.

This I believe.