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The Importance of Trees

When my Utah grandson visited Raleigh a couple of years ago, he sat quietly in the back seat of the car looking all around as we drove away from the airport. We had gone a few miles down the road when, with amazement in his voice, he called out to me, ”Oma, it’s so green here. There are so many trees!” 

His comment took me by surprise. We take our greenery for granted here in North Carolina. Greystone is located in the City of Oaks. Oaks are particularly important as a source of food and shelter for animals, and lumber and shade for humans. I almost always hunt for a shady parking space in Raleigh in the summer. Often, that shade is provided by an oak tree. Apples, figs, cherries, peaches, walnuts, and pecans are all produced by trees. The Southern Magnolia spreads the scent of spring in May. Trees are the gift that keeps on giving. 

According to several articles I read this week, trees are mentioned in the Bible more frequently than any other living thing. While I haven’t done my own research on this claim, for now, I am going to assume it is true. Perhaps one of our Greystone theologians can confirm the accuracy of this statement. Or, some of you could do a study on your own and let us know what you find. It seems to me, you really cannot read far without finding a tree as part of so many stories. Zaccheus climbed a tree to see Jesus, Abraham sat under the oaks of Mamre, Christians are described as being grafted onto the trunk of Israel, we are to be planted like a tree by streams of water, Jesus died on a tree. Trees! 

We have discovered the role of trees in recording part of the history of our planet. Tree rings reflect wet and dry years, temperature changes, and of course, provide a record of climate change. Several organizations have proposed planting more trees to help mitigate the future effects of climate change.  Beginning in 1977, Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai led the Green Belt movement in Africa planting over 30 million trees. Her ideas spread to other continents. Many communities around the world are benefiting from that work today. In the words of the Nobel Committee, “She thinks globally and acts locally.”

This spring, act locally and plant a tree. Check with local nurseries for recommendations of what to grow and where to plant. Every tree planted helps to make our community a better place to live and thrive. While trees trap heat and CO2, and will not stop climate change alone, they add beauty and goodness to our lives and to our communities. Leave a volunteer mulberry or a pesky sweet gum for the birds. Plant a pecan tree for food and an oak tree for the shade. For a global perspective, read Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeannette Winter. 

Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…Genesis 2:9a

– Marcia Ostendorff