What do trees mean to you?

Written by Marie Clark

Now that November is coming and will pass briskly with all the activities and school, it’s important we take time to reflect on what is good in life. It’s important to look back and think about what experiences have shaped us. It’s important to really connect with nature, others, and ourselves.

It was this time last year that I remember coming to the MSU vs. UofM game, before I even knew I was coming here. I sold chocolate-covered pretzels and strawberries to tailgaters and told them about my trip to Haiti I was raising funds for. My history teacher, Mr. Henderson, had brought a group of students from my school to Haiti for the previous three years. After hearing his array of stories in freshmen Honors US History, I knew this was a dream of mine. There were so many barriers to actually going on the trip, but within time and support, I was on my way with 20 other team members over Thanksgiving Week. We stayed at Mission of Hope, Haiti just a bit off the populated Port-au-Prince bay in Titanyen. Each day we traveled to another city doing different types of work. We assisted the village champions with building latrines in Williamson, visited a crazy market and met the traveling sellers in Titanyen, visited an orphanage (creche) in Kenscoff over the mountains as well as Barbancourt. As expected, the week went by way too fast, but the memories and experiences left a huge impact on all my life.

It was only then did I realize what trees really mean to a community. The first city we went to was Williamson. As you would expect, I was very nervous coming into the community. The kids, however, were not. Curious and adventurous, they followed us around all day, in no shoes on the hot rocky ground. It certainly did not look like ground good enough for trees but we planted 50 trees throughout the day for the community. While the majority of my attention was turned towards the playful kids tugging at our ponytails and playing hand games, I was always noticing the unique places of the trees.  So often it seemed like we were placing them in rocky areas that didn’t appear cultivable, but we followed the village champs. It was after lunch when we all started getting tired that we began talking about the coconut and mango trees we just planted. We were told they will take seven years to fruit. SEVEN YEARS TO SEE PROGRESS. I also remember a mother whom we planted a mango tree in front of her house and she told us in Creole how thankful she was as she will now have shade and fruit in a few years for her family of 9. Wow!

Through the experience I wrote this in my journal later in the week:

“Dig at the roots of which one is planted in and spend the time to notice all the branches, coverings, leaves, nutrients, and cracks that every tree has. You can’t change a tree’s roots, but you can change how it grows.”

It is true that we are all like unique trees. We’re all a little broken, get pushed around, and beaten down by heavy weather, but in this we can all unite. No one really has it all together and it’s true that you’ll never really get to see everyone’s roots that they’re built from. Trees are persistent and full of stories. But, continue to grow yourself and nourish others and we will bloom stronger and more united than ever before.

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