Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors
Good Deeds Plant Seeds of Hope
A short film entitled “Tree” depicts a traffic jam in India caused by a large tree that has fallen across the middle of the road. People sit and wait, honking their horns in frustration and beginning to argue with each other. Police officers stand by, unable to effect any change on the situation. A dignitary is escorted from his car, beyond the tree to another car on the other side, where he continues on his way. Rain begins to fall in symbolic fashion, like tears from heaven.
Then a boy walking to school makes his way through the traffic, comes to the tree, and stops. Rather than going around the tree, he drops his school bag, puts his hands against the wet bark, and begins to push with all his might. Children from a school bus stuck in traffic smile as though amused but also understanding his gesture. Then other children from the street join him, lining up in front of the tree, trying to push it all at once. Of course, the tree doesn’t budge. But then adults get out of their cars and rush to help, and soon droves of people are heaving the tree, lifting it just enough to move it out of the way. The rain stops and the sun peaks out from behind the clouds, like God smiling down on the boy and all those who joined him in this small effort to improve their world. Traffic begins to flow again, and people get on with their day.
What a beautiful message this is about the power of one person to initiate change in the world. In that moment when the boy dropped his bag and began to try to push the tree, he looked eccentric in comparison to everyone else. Have you ever felt like doing the right thing would be so contrary to people’s expectations that it would make you look like an oddball?
Defying convention shouldn’t be a goal in and of itself. That’s nonsensical and often vain. But we must be willing to take the first step in the right direction when others seem unwilling or even ignorant of the truth. We must be willing to look like that boy pushing against the giant tree in order to show others the path God wants us to walk.
Many saints of the Church have been known for their ability to go against the tide when they felt God was calling them to a role of leadership. St. Francis of Assisi ventured across the battle lines during the Crusades to initiate peace talks with the Sultan of Egypt. Francis greeted the Sultan by saying, “May the Lord give you peace,” echoing the Muslim greeting “Assalam o alaikum,” which translates to “Peace be upon you.” Francis proceeded to share his faith in a way that did not offend the Sultan, who was impressed by his peacefulness and courage. After this encounter, the Sultan treated his Christian prisoners with greater respect and sought peace with the Crusaders.
We can never fully predict the outcome of our actions, which is a good reason to not despair before we have even tried to do what is right. Humility demands that we be willing to take the first step. There’s always a chance others will see our actions and be inspired in some small way. Good deeds plant seeds of hope, and those seeds can grow into mighty movements that can change the world one person at a time.
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