George Bowers: We need to respect our roots
This past week has been special to many young people in our valley as they celebrated the FFA. I so appreciate the influence of this great organization in my own life and in the lives of millions of others who have been members over the years. I invite you to salute these teenagers and their selfless advisers who volunteer their time and energy to develop our youth into responsible, competent leaders.
National FFA Week is always held the week of George Washington’s birthday, but this annual observance causes me to wonder what Washington would say about the nation we have become and the very city that bears his name. Perhaps this short story might describe his thoughts.
There once was a tiny acorn that fell from its parental tree deep in a Shenandoah Valley forest. It successfully evaded the hungry squirrels, deer, and turkeys that repeatedly came by and gobbled up many of his brothers and sisters that first winter. As the days got longer, however, it sent out a sprout that found its way down into the rich moist soil of the spring thaw.
The seed initially survived on its own stored energy, but soon that single downward sprout hit pay dirt and began collecting water and nutrients that the hungry little guy desperately needed. As it did so, another sprout took off in the opposite direction reaching upward toward the warm sunshine, and it soon boasted its first leaf. As the roots went deeper, the shoot stretched higher and the young tree began to grow rapidly.
Over the next several months, it got munched on by some caterpillars, grazed over by a young fawn, and shaded by more mature trees, but it was very obvious this guy was headed for the forest canopy. At the end of his first year, he had put on several inches in height and increased his girth to withstand winter’s approaching onslaught.
In the springs and summers that followed, the tree continued to grow. Its roots went deeper and deeper and secured the future giant to the forest floor. High winds and brutal storms pounded it year after year, but its roots grasped tightly and anchored it firmly to the solid bedrock below. Because of its strong sturdy roots, the once tiny acorn had grown into a well-established respectable tree.
By its 100th birthday, it had become taller and thicker than any nearby trees. Glancing around, it noticed that none of the other trees began to approach its height or grandeur. Its fall colors were richer and deeper, its limbs boasted more nests and shade, and its trunk even held a hunter’s treestand. It had arrived.
About that time, however, it began to wonder how necessary its roots still were. They were so old and some that were exposed appeared badly weathered and ugly. The mature oak noticed how freely animals roamed about the forest with no roots at all and it yearned for the ability to do the same. It felt restricted by those old outdated appendages. So without any further consideration, the trunk cut off its connections to its roots and the tree declared itself free of such obsolete confinements.
You can probably figure out what happened in the next windstorm. It was a very sad day that affected not just that tree, but several it took down with it because of its enormous size and influence. The once prosperous king of the woodlands spent the next several years lifelessly rotting back into the forest floor.
Our nation is in the process of cutting off our own roots. Instead of appreciating and nurturing those things that sustain and anchor us, we are hacking ourselves free from what many perceive as “confining” limitations. The dependence on God and his holy word held by George Washington and our other early leaders are now viewed as ugly and obsolete. We want to be free of such encumbrances and express ourselves in whatever ways we choose, and so we are rapidly severing our Christian values that have anchored, fed, and empowered us to become the greatest nation on earth. May Washington’s birthday and all the tall trees of this valley remind us of the critical necessity of our godly roots and may we respect, cherish, and enhance them.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.