When I was 12 years old, still a kid growing up in the farmlands of Northwest Ohio, my grandfather made a big decision related to the family’s small farm.
For many years at that point, Granddad had worked a 9-5 job in town and then kept up the farm on weekends and most evenings. That year, he decided to enter a reforestation program that was being piloted by the US Forest Service. The farm would be replanted in trees, restoring those lands, in time, to something like they once were. The Forest Service would provide hundreds of saplings to be planted—oak, poplar, birch, pine—and a small grant to help with the farmer’s commitment to planting and caring for the new infant woodlands.
Granddad paid us each an hourly wage, and my cousins and I worked with him until the entire acreage was sown in trees, with each of us in turn riding on his converted tobacco planter to lay saplings in the conveyer or walking along behind to tamp the newly-broken ground around each tiny trunk. I still remember the great satisfaction and pride we shared when at the end of summer our planting was done, then walking all the rows a couple of times again, with buckets for watering, through the early Fall.
My have those trees grown! Almost forty years of maturity now stand on that wooded land my pre-adolescent cousins and I once planted with our grandfather.
While the land is no longer inhabited by anyone in my family, those trees are still there. They continue to thrive and grow. They bless the earth, offering a home for many creatures and shade for all who wander among their trunks. It is an amazing thing to go and see what has come up from our meager work in the past, now life sustaining life and nourishing emerging generations in that place.
Today is All Soul’s Day, and many of us are lifting up the memory of departed family and friends. I’m sure this day is a big reason why I’ve been thinking of my grandfather, now long past, and that precious memory of our love and life together in my earlier years.
My story of planting trees might also evoke this year’s Team L.I.F.E Campaign, “Rooted and Grounded in Love.” I have been thinking about how the entire parish comes together in a time like this, making financial commitments to support the whole community of St. Michael & All Angels. And it’s about more than just one more year. This work we do now—this generosity of finances, and of our time, of our skills, of our love—is the work of planting and tending for future generations. Yes, this parish is more than a century old now. But what we do together in our time will strengthen St. Michael’s to provide shade, nourishment, and a home for those who will come after us.
It is so very important that we each do what we can, even when it feels small or insignificant or big and ostentatious. We do what we can, and trust God to bless our offerings and make them a blessing for others.
Thank you for being a vital part of this work; and for allowing me to be a part, too.
The Rev. R. Scott Painter, Rector