Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Forest in a Wasteland

Lately I have looked at the world around me and been overwhelmed by the erosion of the society around me. Hate, fear, anger, frustration, sadness, negativity and evil seem to whittle away at our country and world. Today I saw a video that touched my heart and spoke to my soul. The video is of a man named Jadev Payeng. He is from an island in India called Manjuli. This island has been impacted by flooding that has eroded much of the area and left a vast emptiness in its path. Man has cut down trees and brought destruction causing the erosion to be even worse. Man seems to have a way of doing that. Jadev Payeng saw the destruction and determined to make a difference. In 1979 he began to plant one tree a day in the middle of this desert like environment. Day after day, tree after tree, Jadev has grown a forest that is now larger than central park. Jadev's story reminds me of many lessons.

Good deeds produce fruit.
When Jadev began planting trees he shares that the work was very difficult, but over time the trees began to produce their own seeds making the process much easier. Can you imagine the overwhelming impossibility that must have confronted Jadev in the beginning as he walked to a barren area and planted seedlings? He planted one, and stood up to see the vast emptiness around him. He returned for a whole year and yet when he looked around the impact must have seemed minuscule. The thought of giving up had to have crossed his mind many times and yet over and over he returned. One small seedling at a time he began to make a difference. The seeds he planted began to bear fruit and multiply.  A single seedling became a "dense forest in a barren wasteland".

You and I may be feel paralyzed by the barrenness around us. It may seem overwhelmingly impossible to change the chaotic world we live in, but if each day we will persistently plant one good seed then over time we begin to see those seeds produce their own fruit. If I plant my seeds in the vicinity of your seeds then the work progresses even more quickly. In the beginning the change may barely seem noticeable. Giving up will be tempting, but if we persist our good deeds WILL produce fruit. A treeline of good deeds will begin to form and even transform the community around us. More seeds will be planted, we will slow the erosion of the society around us, and the forest we create will begin to cast shadow on the desert around us.  That shadow has the ability to bring a coolness to an otherwise hot "climate". Change begins.

Good deeds bring life.
As Jadev's forest continued to grow, birds and animals that had left the area began to return. Elephants, birds, tigers and deer now inhabit the trees and roam the area. Planting the trees brought back life.

Sometimes it seems as though the negativity that surrounds us is driving away the good. People retreat to their cellphones, computers, and social media. They post things online that they would never say face-to-face. We talk more and hear less. We seek to be understood and stop seeking to understand. Families break up, friendships are destroyed, erosion continues and the desert grows, but it doesn't have to be that way.  If, like Jadev, we plant seeds of goodness in the world around us we begin to notice that life returns. Families gather at the dinner table, friends reconnect, people begin to listen. The phones and texts stop and conversations begin. Life returns. I want to see our children thrive. I want to see families rebuilt. I want to see people begin to turn towards one another and stop turning on each other. We can influence that. We must influence that.

Good deeds will be attacked.
As Jadev's forest grew and the animals returned so did a new threat. Man. Man poaches the animals. Man cuts down the trees. Man can destroy a forest much faster than one can be planted. Jadev has to be watchful and care for what has been planted. He needs others to help in that process.

There are those in our world, as sad as it is, who actively attack what is good and right. Their words kill as effectively as a poacher. They are destructive and consider the good of themselves over the good of the whole.  The refuse to put down their weapons. You and I, the planters, have to protect what is planted. We must guard the precious life around us. We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, protect those who are defenseless and not be hampered when the task seems daunting. Good deeds will be attacked. DO THEM ANYWAY!!! There will always be opposition, but the benefits outweigh the cost of doing good.

I can't help but wonder if Jadev knew in 1979 that he was planting a forest. I have a feeling he thought he was just planting a tree. You and I have no idea the impact that will be made when we plant a seed. We can save a metaphorical environmental, change a society's climate, and bring life to a barren world. Let's plant a tree!

The Forest Man