A New Journey for a New Year: What’s Your Tree?
The holiday hustle and bustle has passed. We now make preparations for a brand new year. December 31st is on the horizon. Soon it will be 2014. Of course this is resolution time, when people make all kinds of pledges… to exercise regularly, lose weight, refrain from favorite vices. This year, ask yourself a different question. Ask, “What’s my tree?”
The question originates from Julia Butterfly Hill, an American environmental activist who spent 738 days living in a 1500-year old California redwood tree to prevent loggers from cutting it down. It was 1997. She was 23. Her goal was to make the world aware of the plight of ancient forests. Her courageous act of civil disobedience gained international attention for the redwoods as well as other environmental and social justice issues. Her story inspired millions around the globe to take action in their own communities.
Wael Ghonim was haunted by the image of a man who had been beaten to death by Egyptian police. He didn’t know the dead man, Khaled Said. He could have averted his eyes and shrugged off the incident as something he could not change. But rather than look away, Ghonim used the photo to launch a Facebook page. His title was “We are all Khaled Said”. That phrase ignited a fear that had gone unspoken among Egyptians: What happened to Khaled Said could happen to anyone. The page garnered millions of views, rallied thousands to demonstrate, and inspired countless other citizens to find their voices in print, online and out loud. The Egyptian Revolution started on January 25, 2011. Seventeen days later, President Hosni Mubarak relinquished power. Ghonim’s tale shows the extraordinary power of a message, a deed, a single individual. One man, one message, and ultimately, a government overturned.
Naturalist, scientist and poet Loren Eiseley wrote his tale about a wise man who
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?" The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die." Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!” At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”
I am not advising you to quit dentistry and become a tree-sitter, a revolutionist or a starfish thrower. However, Julia’s question, “What’s your tree?” is a catalyst to consider your place in the world and where you really want to spend your energy next year. There is something special in each and every one of us. We are all gifted with the ability to make a difference, the power to shape the future. You can choose to be an observer in what happens to you, or you can take action and participate in the world around you. The question is not, “Can one person make a difference?” You already do. The question you need to ask is, “What kind of a difference do I want to make?”
May the New Year bring you, your professional and personal families many blessings, and may you look for opportunities to choose to change your world for the better.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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