Inch by inch, the trees of the forest rooted themselves deeper into the rich, black soil. Five trees stood close to each other near the middle of the forest. Their earliest memories were a child’s hands firming the dirt around their thin sapling stems when they were planted during an Arbor Day scouting activity.
But that was many, many years ago.
Now, the five trees were tall and mighty. They had grown thick with time; their bark chiseled deep lines of identifiable character in each of them. The one tree closest to the small clearing grew the tallest. It was first to be drenched by the rain during the spring showers. It hoarded the sun light and shaded the other trees from the vital rays. The tree farthest from the clearing was the darkest, with its gray-black bark thicker than the others to shield it from the bitter cold of winter. The three trees in the middle competed against each other for attention, producing grand colors in the fall and wrapping their roots around each other to absorb each other’s nutrients from the soil and water.
One fall day when all the trees where showing off their best colors, they heard steps tromping in their direction. Two figures stopped between the five trees and looked up.
“When I was a boy scout, I planted these trees,” the man said to his son. “Our pack planted over a hundred trees that day, but I got to plant these five.”
The trees rustled themselves with pride to stimulate more admiration from their spectators. The towering trees barely noticed the tiny sapling in the boy’s hands until they knelt to plant it in the middle of the five trees. The boy’s tiny hands pressed the dirt around the sapling stem, and the mighty trees around them held the air as still as possible to hear the boy’s small voice.
“It was her favorite kind of tree,” the boy said. “I hope she can see it from heaven.”
The first watering of this tree sapling came from the tears of its planter. Streams of liquid drenched down the boy’s cheeks to fall on the newly packed soil around the stem. The father held his son tightly afterward, and reassured him that both his mother and God could see the love in the tree and the love in his heart. The two left as silently as they came, with only the tromping of their boots growing softer with the distance.
The five trees couldn’t ignore the new addition to the forest. It made them wonder what was going on in the heart of the child who planted them. How did he remember this exact spot? Were they planted with such love? Why did the father bring the boy back to this spot so many years later to plant this little, scrawny twig of a tree?
As time went by, the five trees tended to the needs of their new addition. The largest tree opened windows of light onto the sapling, warming it with the sun and directing rain water to stream in its direction. The middle trees sheltered the sapling’s roots by covering it with their warm, colorful leaves in the fall. Even the darkest tree protected the sapling by hiding it from forest creatures looking for low brush to eat.
Every fall, the trees awaited their visitors. While the father shook his head in disbelief that his own boyhood trees were so tall and mighty, the son measured the height of his own sapling against his own growing stature. They didn’t seem to care how different the new sapling looked from the other trees.
One fall, the father and son cheered with delight that the young tree was now bearing fruit. They returned with a basket. Bright red apples filled the basket and the boy’s heart with a fond memory of his mother.
“She loved apple pie,” the boy’s deepening voice said. His father smiled and helped his teenage son gather the fruit. It was time for a deeper lesson than remembering their loved one.
“This tree took patience, time, lots of sunlight and water, and even the shelter and supports of these other trees to help it grow into a mature, fruit-bearing tree.”
“It is kind of cool that God used the trees you planted when you were a kid to help my tree grow, huh?” the teenager pointed out.
“God uses EVERYTHING for His purpose, son” the father answered, “especially us.”
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