Planting and Painting a Palm Tree Island

Tom painting the palm tree island

The scraggly small palm tree that could be a cousin to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree stood alone on the tiny island that graces the entrance to our older subdivision. Our neighborhood may have had a homeowners’ association, an HOA, at one time, but no more. The island appears to be a no man’s land.

Then one day two newly planted palm trees were growing on the small island, lovingly propped up by wood braces to keep them standing in strong wind. Who planted them? Who owns the little island? Who cares?

Heading out on my morning walk one day I met a man painting the small island’s curb bright yellow. Striking up a brief conversation with him I found out his name is Tom and that he lives in our neighborhood one street over from where we live. It turns out he also planted the trees. Upon further questioning he told me that no one’s paying him for the planting of the trees and painting of the curb and that he paid for the trees and paint out of his own pocket. He just thought the entry to our neighborhood needed some sprucing up. Wow!

I’m planning on getting to know Tom better. Anyone who puts forth the time, money, and effort to fix up something that’s not his has to be some kind of special person!

We need more Toms in the world. I need to be more like Tom! For most of us it’s our default mode to ask before we put forth time, money, or effort, “What’s in it for me?” Tom’s planting and painting of the palm tree island is a reminder that this default mode is a serious fault!

There’s an old Greek proverb that states, “Society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they shall never sit.” Tom’s 73 years old.

From the most casual of our relationships to our most personal of relationships and from the smallest and most obscure of opportunities to the large and life altering opportunities we can choose to give of ourselves when there’s no guarantee we will receive anything back. In fact, we can choose to give of our ourselves when there’s the guarantee we won’t receive in return! Plant a tree under the shade of which you will never sit!

Tom told me as he painted the curb that in recent years he’s lost his wife of 47 years, a daughter, and a grandson. Still, Tom seemed happy with his planting and painting of the palm tree island. I don’t wonder why. Giving rather than grumbling is always a better response to the pain that comes to us in this fallen, broken world. That’s the lesson I learned from Tom, the planter and painter of the palm tree island.

“Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Luke 14:12-13

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