Because of this, we get to enjoy the many benefits of being surrounded by an abundance of trees. Chief among these, perhaps, is the sheer beauty they display. For instance, the fall foliage is currently unfolding here in east Tennessee. With each passing day, the fabulous colors of fall become increasingly evident in the trees all about us. Few things are as majestic to the eye as is taking in the view of a stand of hardwoods in their full autumn splendor.
Of course, another benefit of having so many trees around is the shade they afford us in the months leading up to the fall. Here in the southeast, the humidity in July, August, and September can often be quite oppressive. But as the sun moves overhead each day, it eventually passes above the tree line on the western side of our yard. When this happens, much of our lawn and our front porch become shaded. The corresponding temperature decline is immediately appreciable.
There are other benefits as well. We enjoy the fruit of wild elderberry, mulberry, and persimmon trees. We also receive an annual harvest of walnuts and hickory nuts. And even the nuts we do not eat, such as acorns, still produce a harvest in that they draw in squirrels, turkey, and deer in large numbers. All in all, the trees which surround our humble abode provide us with a multiplicity of blessings.
But they also provide certain other things, not all of which are welcome. For instance, the walnuts that fall in great number each fall litter the roads and the driveway. They fall with such frequency and with such force that they can be painful if they hit one’s head.
What is more, they are large enough that, if stepped on, they can twist an ankle. Similarly, if they are hit by a lawnmower blade when chopping up leaves (yet another downside of so many trees), they can become airborne projectiles that can do serious damage to vehicles, structures, or even people.
Acorns, though not as large, can also be quite painful if they happen to strike one’s head when they fall. Plus, there are so many more of them that the chances of this happening are greatly increased over walnut strikes. It also impacts one’s decision on where (and where not) to park one's vehicle.
Another unpleasant consequence of hardwoods is detritus. More than just nuts and leaves, trees shed a lot of other things. Among these are branches, twigs, and an abundance of seedpods. This is especially true of poplar trees, which produce prodigious amounts of seeds from cones. These small, sliver-like objects penetrate almost every available space (including one's clothes and shoes) where they often accumulate in huge numbers. And trust me; you do not want to step on one barefooted. Few things are as painful!
And yet, there is one last thing cast off by trees in the fall that is even more evident. That, of course, is sap.
Imagine a stretch of roadway immediately after a brief summer rainfall. The road is wet everywhere except directly under those places where trees overhang the road. Now, imagine the exact opposite, in which the roadway is completely dry everywhere except directly under the overhanging trees, where it is clearly darker, moist, and very sticky. The reason is that the overhanging trees have dripped copious amounts of sap onto the asphalt directly beneath them.
I finally figured this out after wondering not only why the road was discolored but also why my walking shoes consistently stuck and squeaked while I ambled over and beyond these places in my daily walks. Clearly, tree sap is designed to stick to and with whatever it touches!
This is no doubt why these spots have now been present on the roads for several weeks, and appear not to have any plans of going away any time soon. Time will tell just how long they last before they are eventually dried by the sun and the weather; but it certainly appears that the sap will still be present when the current season's leaves and nuts and seedpods have long gone.
All of this has led me to ask myself what all I leave behind me. As I have lived out my life and passed through this world, no doubt I have shed many a thing and left it behind me. Much of this is like leaves and nuts and similar such things in that they might have made an impression on others around me at the time I dispensed them. But one has to wonder just how long much of that lasted.
By contrast, I can only hope that certain other of the things I dispensed will have been more likely to have stuck! I can only hope that they affixed themselves and they stubbornly stayed around in the daily lives of those upon whom they landed.
The truth is that we all influence others on a daily basis. Such is the nature of human interaction. But only a select few of the things we actually say or do have truly lasting impact(s) on others. Given this recognition, surely it behooves us to consider more carefully the things we dispense upon others.
The Apostle Paul once told the believers at Corinth (in First Corinthians, chapter 11, verses 1 and 2): “You should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. I am so glad that you always keep me in your thoughts, and that you are following the teachings I passed on to you.” Clearly, the impact Jesus Christ had on Paul stuck, as did Paul’s impact on the Corinthians!
Throughout my life, in addition to the impact made upon me by Jesus Christ, numerous individuals have left me with things that have stuck! Many memorable truths, doctrines, principles, values, morals, and ethics come to mind here.
I am increasingly thankful for all of the people who impacted me with such things; and can only hope and pray that the same will one day be said of me as well. For only then will I know that my influence upon others truly stuck!