Why Creating Change Is Like Planting Trees

Good afternoon from Westminster, MD!

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

– Greek Proverb

I stumbled across this Greek Proverb a number of years ago and it has been “growing on me” ever since. As I have walked through life, I have seen the truth in this statement. When I became a father, it became even more clear. It is through long-term investment in my children that I can best prepare them to live a life that matters. If I only focus on the short-term return, and the benefits I receive from it, the true impact will be minimized. Seeing life through a lens that extends beyond my actual, physical life reminds me to “play the long game”.

I have found this concept to be especially true when it comes to creating change and making a difference. The truth is quick, short-term results feel more rewarding, and even appear more effective on the surface, when trying to create change. The problem is they rarely are the right answer for making a long-term difference. Yes, they might solve the problem for a moment, but they often create other issues or are not sustainable.

Long-term investment is significantly messier and provides far less satisfaction in the moment. However, the results have the possibility of creating real change that could impact generations. It is a choice to exchange momentary pleasure for real significance.

This is certainly the case with poverty and the Lie of Hopelessness. Real change requires real commitment to provide real opportunity and a reframed identity. In both cases, this is rarely a quick and easy process. It is not to say short term needs do not need to be addressed–if someone is starving you give them a meal. The problem is created when short-term solutions are used to address long-term problems. Uprooting poverty by exposing the Lie of Hopelessness to the light of practical and spiritual hope is not easy, but it is worth it.

This is why a tree is such a great analogy. It takes time for a tree to become a source of shade. However, once it reaches it’s potential, the impact can last generations.

The question is do we want short-term satisfaction or long-term significance.

James Belt

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