Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” Psalm 96:11-12

I love the Psalmist’s vision of all creation, heaven and earth, singing a new song to the Lord in praise of his majesty and glory, and of all the trees in the forest singing for joy. It causes me to reflect upon the recurring line in my all time favorite children’s book, The Giving Tree,“And the tree was happy.” But The Giving Tree is more than merely a book for children. It is a little book that continues to speak volumes to all of us the older we grow as it teaches us about the joy of altruism.

Through the image of an unselfish apple tree, Shel Silverstein tells the heart-warming story of unchecked selflessness, godly love. Without ever asking anything in return, the tree gives and keeps on giving in the face of unrequited love. What’s more, it is in the act of unconditional, sacrificial giving that the tree experiences authentic happiness. The Giving Tree inspires us as humans to act in ways that demonstrate we care more about the needs of others than the wants of self. It is in such acts of kindness and compassion that true felicity is experienced.

Silverstein’s happy tree and the Psalmist’s forest of trees singing for joy are apt symbols of godly unconditional love to introduce the group that serves as the next honoree in our Earth Care Champion series. Within Chatham County the Grand Trees of Chatham (GTOC) is an all volunteer organization with a mission to increase public understanding and appreciation of Chatham County’s valuable and irreplaceable trees. This mission is accomplished through two components:
Grand Trees of Chatham Awards Program. A tree recognition component that seeks to identify and award outstanding Chatham trees. Trees are nominated by Chatham citizens with the approval of the tree’s owner.
Public Education Program: An education component which seeks to educate Chatham citizens on the value and care of trees through workshops, public events, tree identification hikes, and community outreach.

Full disclosure; I have been a long-time board member of Grand Trees of Chatham because I know the critical role trees have played in providing a habitable planet, and the care that must be given them if life as we know it is to be sustained for future generations. One of the greatest gifts that Nature has given us is trees, the gift that just keeps on giving. To learn more about the evolution of trees and the role they play in nurturing life on earth, click HERE and HERE. For a Smithsonian article on how forests are key to understanding how America developed and who we are today, click HERE.

And to learn more about the work of GTOC and upcoming events drop an email to grandtreesofchatham@gmail.com and ask to be placed on the email list.

As this post began with a Psalm, it is appropriate to end it with a poem:

By Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.