I was in a voice chat with someone some months ago; we were pondering the political situation in the world.
As the chat progressed, he began to draw a sharp contrast between the character and sacrificial dispositions of the men and women that founded some developed nations and those that have ruled Nigeria, for instance, since her independence, their political affiliations notwithstanding.
Among others, one thing that readily emerges during such comparison is the overarching foresight some of the founding fathers of these developed nations had.
A number of them planted trees in whose shade they never sat. Simply put, they were bothered about how to make the future generation grow up in a better country, climate and world.
People are often motivated when they’re told the benefits they stand to get by working hard and making sacrifices daily. We’re encouraged to invest in something, be focused, aim high, and jump. Truly, such sacrifices, many times, yield well in our lifetime. So, there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, the demands of our time require that we upgrade the reasons behind our motivation. We need to move beyond the profit we’ll make in our lifetime to the gains future generations, and indeed the human race, will make even at our demise.
When I look at the life and times of great women like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Church Terrell, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks etc., who were abolitionists, civil rights activists, great educators, icons of emancipation and the freedom movement; I see people who planted a tree with the black child and women in mind.
They were never honoured to be on the ticket of a major political party as a Vice Presidential candidate like Kamala Harris. Some were honoured posthumously while others have no records of their heroic acts, unfortunately.
The same applies to people like Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists who never became congressmen nor the first black president of The USA despite their sacrifice.
However, whether known or unknown, celebrated or not, they all planted trees whose shade they never sat in. Whose shade we now enjoy.
Abraham in the Bible made several sacrifices that his children enjoy to date; David didn’t have the privilege of building a Temple for his God, but he made everything ready for Solomon; Moses spent his adult life shepherding Israel through the wilderness although his feet never stepped into the land that is full of milk and honey.
Lessons from a society grows great when old men plant trees.
1. It’s not always about you or about what you’ll enjoy during your lifetime. It’s about your generation and generations of humans to come.
2. Pave the way even when you’re sure the results won’t arrive during your lifetime. When the results begin to trickle in, you’ll always be remembered by heaven and earth. Your footprints will not be covered.
3. Don’t destroy your family name for a brief moment of pleasure and fame. Some children are suffering the consequences of the evil their parents committed. A good name, the wise man says, is better than great riches (Proverbs 22:1). So, sacrifice for your home and for true friendships.
4. Find a poor child to train, look after that widow/widower, adopt or care for the orphans, help someone suffering from addiction, nurture a youth, give people opportunities, take a chance on that poor girl/boy, volunteer in underserved communities,
5. Offer your professional services free often, passionately pray for those in prisons and visit them, donate to charity and don’t announce it, love people genuinely, including those who might seem undeserving of it, sponsor the education of children from poor homes or teach in rural communities,
6. Educate young girls on their health, fight for the oppressed, speak for the voiceless, sympathise with the grieving, provide food for the hungry, drinkable water to the thirsty, and clothing for the naked. And the list goes on.
All these might not yield their fruits in your lifetime, but you can be sure that the heavens keep records of all these. And your generation will never want any good thing.
Moreover, these benevolent gestures often have a ripple effect of spreading love, harmony, peace and further help. I mean, the needy who receive help from you today will feel compelled to help someone in need tomorrow.
7. Let’s take care of our environment. You may have your reservations about climate change, but you’ll agree that we can’t destroy the place we and our children live, albeit for a limited number of years.
8. Let’s not remain myopic in our vision. The world won’t end at your demise. It’ll end only when God says it’s time. So, don’t be selfish.
9. Don’t stop praying and evangelising for the restoration of sinners. The promised revival of souls may not happen in your days, but you’ll always have a monument in Zion – which is more important, after all.
Plant a tree in whose shade your children and, indeed, humanity will sit tomorrow.
A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they may never sit.
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