Behrman House Blog

Plant One Tree

It’s nearly Tu BiShevat—the birthday for trees.

My thoughts go to the tree I planted last spring in our front yard. It was to replace one lost years ago in a storm. I had every intention of replacing it then but kids and work, and, well, life intervened. It seems there was always something more pressing, all these other urgent matters that took my attention away from replacing our tree. Yet finally, I did it. Last spring I planted a new tree.

Now, I live in a 40-year-old house that lately has generated many repair emergencies. The roof sprang a leak; a bunch of window sills rotted out; the garage door died very dramatically one day; the oven broke. So many now-urgent projects, large and small, competed for attention that my attention became too thinly spread.

Although I continued watering my new tree, it seemed to fail to thrive over the summer. I was too busy with my work on these other emergencies to chase down the reasons for this tree’s possible distress. And now it looks as though the tree did not make it to its first birthday.

Why am I writing about my dead tree?

My Facebook feed has been exploding since the election, and especially since the inauguration: A barrage of controversial orders has generated a corresponding barrage of calls to multiple urgent actions. I begin to wonder if there is an actual political strategy to start so many fires that those in opposition simply exhaust themselves trying to answer them all.

Maybe if I really want to nurture a tree in my front yard, I have to concentrate hard on that specific tree, and make it a daily priority.

Maybe now is the time for each of us to concentrate our efforts, and act with intention on one or just a few causes. No single one of us can answer every outrage. But each of us can choose a cause, a program, an ideal that we feel is being threatened, and act on that. And if there are enough of us, many causes will benefit from such sustained and focused attention.

This Tu BiShevat, what will you choose to nurture so that it will thrive and grow and last?