Arbor Day: Our Future
By J’Nel Wright
Arbor Day this year is on April 24. As one of only two major holidays that celebrate nature and the environment (the other one is Earth Day, which will occur two days earlier, on April 22), Arbor Day has varied in popularity since its inception in 1872. Back then, founder Julius Sterling Morton changed the landscape of his barren Nebraska homestead by planting thousands of trees.
Many people, recalling their time in elementary school many years ago, may remember celebrating Arbor Day. In my school, we spent an hour finding the perfect spot in the school yard to plant a seedling that was donated to the school to mark the event. Then we returned to class, drank a carton of chocolate milk, and that was it.
Fortunately, Arbor Day has experienced a regrowth in popularity, as youngsters learn more about the human impact on nature and how we can reverse the damage of deforestation. Both are important points. But taking time out to formally celebrate Arbor Day is important for reasons beyond an ever-changing climate and air quality.
Here are three reasons why celebrating Arbor Day is great for the environment and offers even better reminders for the people living in it.
- Small gestures can make a big impact.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that a simple gesture can make a difference. I mean, surely, great change requires a huge financial investment, a celebrity endorsement (or two), and hours of time. And often that’s true. But positive change isn’t exclusive to grandness. And much like Julius Morton planted seeds one at a time, so can we.
“Small acts of kindness, done consistently over time, will not only improve your relationships and boost morale, but they also have the added benefit of being contagious in all the best ways, causing a beautiful ripple effect,” writes Amy Blaschka, a Forbes contributor, in her article “To Make a Big Impact, Go Small.”
- Develop a meaningful and lasting tradition.
These are definitely unpredictable—dare I say, chaotic—times. And with changes happening on such a grand scale, it’s hard to convince ourselves that we maintain control over anything currently happening in our lives. That is one of the reasons why we relish the comfort and predictability of our traditions. And Arbor Day is a simple, grassroots, and personal day to add to your repertoire.
“We humans are a remarkably social species, and traditions help bring us together. Whenever families and friends have lived in communities, we have adopted group rituals and customs which strengthen our bonds with each other,” explains Saul Levine, M.D. in Psychology Today. “These provide us with experiences of shared values and mutual comfort. They also offer us time for reflection and relaxation, and relief from the pressures of our daily lives.”
If you can’t plant a tree, buy a house plant. If you love the idea of Arbor Day, but lack a green thumb, make a yearly donation to an advocacy group whose focus is to protect the environment, volunteer to clean up a public park every year, or make a commitment to purchase locally-grown, organic fruits and vegetables for one year.
Or, you can keep it simple as the day was intended. Enjoy a coffee or a sandwich while sitting under a tree. Go for a walk and take note of the trees you pass on your path. Remember, those trees were mere seedlings once.
- Don’t take anything for granted.
If we’ve learned anything from the current health and economic crisis is that we simply cannot take anything for granted. A disease-free life or even a seemingly secure professional career can pivot downwards right before our eyes, leaving us to wonder what we can trust.
But planting a tree gives us hope. And sharing that experience with someone shows that we can place our faith in something and know that with a little care and support, that seedling will grow stronger and taller and better able to withstand any hardships that life throws at it. Preparing a delicate seedling illustrates our belief that something powerful will come from our effort and by having a little faith in its potential.
Where will you be in five years? Ten years? An Arbor Day tree can help you measure that time. “Other holidays repose upon the past,” said Morton. “Arbor Day proposes for the future.” And by planting the idea of a new Arbor Day tradition in your life, you will prepare a small token to the world around you that looks forward to giving back to you.
Photo by Skitterphoto.com
J'Nel Wright is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in topics concerning health and wellness, aging, caregiving, humor, travel and business. Her work has appeared in a variety of regional and national publications. Her educational background includes a bachelor's degree in English and Social Work. She has traveled throughout Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, French Polynesia, Mexico and much of the United States. She is a full time writer.