One Tree. Four Sons.

Posted: August 31, 2007 in Compassion, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

I like trees. I like the way they stand majestically, reaching proudly toward the sky. While I’m not a pro at knowing all of the different types of trees or any of their specifics, there are a few basic things I remember about them from my Junior High science classes.

Some trees stay green all year round, other have leaves that change color and fall off during the autumn, some bear fruit, and things like that. But most of all I remember that trees produce oxygen. That’s a good thing too, because that’s what we human being breathe. As it turns out, trees inhale what we exhale and we inhale what trees exhale. It works out pretty good if you ask me.  

There is one particular tree that I happen to see quite often. But, to tell you the truth, I haven’t the faintest idea what kind of tree it is. But it’s a beautiful tree nonetheless.

Right now, this tree is sort of shedding its bark – which because it is a silvery color, I thought it might have been some type of birch, but the leaves aren’t birch leaves. Perhaps it’s some type hybrid. Who knows? All I know is that I like looking at it.

A couple of days ago, as I passed this tree, it reminded me of a story I had read in a magazine a few months ago – it was one of those story’s that has a moral. The story is about a man who had four sons and of a tree that was growing near to where this family lived.

The tale is that this man sent each of his sons individually out to see this tree. However, he sent each one out at a different season. Each of the sons were to study the tree for one full day and upon their return were to tell their father what they knew about the tree just based on what they saw. Because each of the sons had been sent out at a different season, each of them saw the tree at a different point in its yearly life cycle and as a result they all had different overall views of the tree. The moral was that each of them had based their views on incomplete knowledge.

We as a community are often times the same way when it comes to how we view the homeless. We aren’t seeing the complete picture. We forget that each homeless person has a past, and hopefully a future, that is different from the present. We are seeing the homeless – as it were – with their leaves haven fallen off and their limbs barren.

By judging the homeless only on what we see at present, we are depriving them of the most fundamental of rights: human dignity.

Moreover, in our failure to see the humanity in those persons who are afflicted by homelessness, we lose our own capacity for compassion. And that loss of compassion prevents us from truly becoming the type of person we often times pretend we are.

Just because a person is in the "winter" of their lives doesn’t necessarily mean that come the spring they won’t bear fruit.

Maybe if we took the time to help the homeless "prune" back some of the obstacles that prevent them raising their standard of living, we’d find the world a much more enjoyable place to live.

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