September 16, 2020
When I walked out my door yesterday to get the paper, I heard crashing going on in my back yard. As I walked around the side of the house, I noticed a truck parked in the church yard. I had earlier told the caretaker it was ok for his friends to cut up and remove the large oak that had fallen several weeks ago. The only thing I asked was that they let me know when they were going to do so. By the time I got back to the tree the branches had already been stripped off the trunk and it had been sawn into more manageable slabs. These were being split with a wedge and then loaded onto the trailer. Apparently, they had not gotten the message to inform me before they began.
I have to say I was impressed by how much work they had gotten done. When I was director of a conference center in Kansas a tree about the same size had fallen on the side of our building. While it had hit the roof, it caused little damage. I contacted some volunteers who came out that weekend and cut the tree away from the building. It took the four of us the most part of a day to cut it back to about half its length. They left and over the next two weeks I would periodically cut off new sections of the tree until it was finally gone. I marveled how this man and wife team had cut through the entire tree in just one morning.
We engaged in casual conversation for five or ten minutes about the tree, the process, and what was going to happen with the limbs. He was planning on bringing a tractor and scooping the extra limbs up and hauling them to the open field on another part of the property to be burned (it is legal in our town). He was hesitant to burn them in place since there were other overhanging trees that would probably catch fire. I appreciated that he was reluctant to start our own forest fire.
THOUGHTS: When I approached the man stood up from resting on a slab of tree and came toward me saying, “Hi” and extending his hand. I stopped and even took a step or two back. He dropped his hand and said, “We do not follow the covid advice, but we try and respect those who do.” While I understood his action and his explanation, I wondered about his thinking. He was honoring my belief as an individual on the need to practice social distancing, but by not wearing his mask or social distancing he was denying what was best for the group. I have found this is the case in many situations. When we know others as individuals, we tend to get along well and show respect. If we do not know the other, we instead treat them as a group. This carries all our existing prejudice and bias. What we need is to do the work to understand others. Then we can see and treat them as valued people. Change is coming and it starts with you.