Updated: May 18, 2020
What we can learn from nature about the value of working together for the greater good
Nature has a lot of wisdom to share with us during times of uncertainty and concern. As I reflect on the growing worries that are flooding our news stream and social lives, my thoughts frequently return to the interconnectedness of trees.
A walk through the woods on any given day surrounds you with the strength and enormity of nature. Although some of the branches may reach out and graze one another, the trunks of trees typically grow a short distance from one another – to allow for each to get the sunlight they need to thrive. The most important work of trees is invisible to us by only looking at the beauty of what we see above ground. The real work of trees is happening below the ground, at the root. In fact, if you could flip the forest upside down, you would witness an amazing root system where every tree’s roots intertwine and intermingle with all the surrounding trees’ roots. Trees use this system to communicate to one another. When a tree is struggling with disease or not receiving enough of the resources it needs to grow, the other trees divert their nutrients to help the weaker, more vulnerable tree. It’s a beautiful and profound act of care and compassion that happens without thought or worry about going without. The trees act in synchronization to support and care for the one or few in need. Working together, each tree collaborates and contributes a small amount of its own resources so that it can survive while coming to the aid of the other that is sick or struggling. It is nature helping itself survive, protecting the vulnerable, and working continually in harmony and community.
We are now being called to do much the same. Social-distancing is about helping one another, protecting the vulnerable, making sure resources are available to help the sick, and it requires all of us to work in harmony and community. We can become stuck in our fear, our stress, our anger, our frustration… or, we can turn our attention to what we have to contribute and how we can help. This is a time for us to not only implement change in our personal daily lives but also offer support and safeguard the most susceptible among us.
We have an opportunity to strengthen the roots of our community and create a wind of compassion, care and kindness. Let us listen to the trees. They are mindful of how to care for one another.
Focus On The Helpers. Many individuals, groups, and companies are doing work that we can recognize with a sense of appreciation and gratitude –
first responders and medical workers continuing to work each day
schools and teachers adapting their lessons for remote learning
supermarket employees feverishly re-stocking shelves
parents rearranging their schedules with little notice
neighbors checking-in on one another
Exercise Patience. Change is hard for everyone. We are all navigating uncharted territory and trying to establish new routines that challenge us in unexpected and unwelcome ways.
Notice what you’re resisting (and why)
Exercise compassion for yourself and family as you establish a new schedule
Recognize that everyone in your community is sharing this experience
Maintain Connections. Call, text, email, video chat with friends and family. Connect with your neighbors in much the same way – especially if they are elderly or in poor health. A short phone call can make someone’s day… and boost your mood, as well!
Remember to Breathe. Collectively we are all facing a new reality for the time-being. Find time to put your oxygen mask on first. Take advantage of opportunities to slow down and focus on what matters most.
Support Your Community. Check-In with your elderly neighbor, call a friend, purchase a gift card to a local restaurant, donate to a local food bank or charity, and take only what you need.