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The Tree's Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke.

by Hal Evan Caplan
January 28, 2009

The Tree’s Lesson_Hal Evan Caplan-Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned TykeMy tyke constantly reminds me that I have lots of things to learn, well maybe not "lots", but there IS plenty to be reminded of. So, in a sense, I have to relearn things I don't always think about. This is why I do consider my tyke to be my teacher. Whether I learn from him, or am just reminded of things from him, he is my teacher.

We have all know that the world is getting to be a smaller and smaller place to live. While this has several meanings, I'm referring to the amount of new construction and building taking place, and that the population of the world is increasing. I am a huge supporter of the "green" concept. My wife and I are firm advocates of not wasting water, recycling our paper/glass/plastic/cans, the minimum use of Styrofoam and not making unnecessary trips in the car. Not only do our best to live by the motto of "reduce, reuse and recycle", we also share this earth-friendly lifestyle with our child, my teacher.

My teacher and I set out to get a bunch of errands done. Because the majority of the errands were so far away, I did have to use my truck and unfortunately we had to get on the interstate. During our drive downtown, we were caught off guard and suddenly were engulfed by a "parking lot" that was now the freeway. I later found out that an accident had occurred just a few miles ahead, but was still out of sight from where we were "parked".

Because of this, I was thrust into in a position to come up with a game, like I often do while in my truck with my teacher. We started out doing the usual games like "I-spy-with-my-little-eye" and "Simon says". Shortly thereafter my teacher wanted to play a game that we had not played before. Better yet, he suggested, we "make up" our own game. I was good with this idea and a ton of ideas poured out of both my and my teacher's mouths. Finally we decided on a game that he named, "Things We Never Noticed Before." Just for the record, this was a lot harder than it sounds. I mean, how many billboards and types of trees and cars can one come up with while sitting still?

In the middle of our newly created game, it was my teacher's turn, and he brought something to my attention that I had not noticed in the recent past.

"Dad, when did they start tearing down all of those trees"? He asked.

I looked in the direction that he was pointing and saw that there was a very large area of trees getting cut down and bulldozers working away. Just a small row of trees at the edge, closest to the interstate, was all that was left from the field of hardwood and pine trees that once stood there. One could see through this row of trees very easily and it was apparent that soon there was some building that would be taking place.

"I don’t have any idea." I replied.
"I never knew that was happening!" He roared.
"Well, neither did I." I immediately resonded.
"What are they doing, anyway?" He wanted to know.
"If I had to guess, I would say they are going to build houses or some office buildings, or maybe some new stores." I mumbled.
"Who 'IS' they?" He wanted to know.
"Why do you sound so angry?" I questioned.

...By the way, that was the RIGHT thing to ask.

"HELLO DAD, trees getting cut down!" He emphasized.
"I see your point." I replied. (Don't get me wrong... I obviously saw the tree's getting cut down and it of course bothered me a great deal, it's just that I was unaware of the impact that it would have on my teacher...)

"That's just not fair." He exclaimed.
"I agree."
"Those poor trees; they can't even talk." He noted.

I see a little environmentalist in the making, I thought to myself. Wanting my teacher to give some more input on the subject matter and to see what he would do to stop such a thing, I decided to probe and question a little more. It turned out to be a very entertaining conversation, and a good topic to take our minds off the fact that we were still stuck in traffic.

"Ok dude, what would you do right now to stop that from happening?" I asked.
"I would yell at them, just like the Cat-in-the-Hat did." He shot back.

I had to think about that one for a second. How does Dr. Seuss’s the "Cat-in-the Hat" fit into this? Then, it occurred to me that one of my teacher's favorite books read to him at bedtime is "If I Ran the Rain Forest" by Dr. Seuss with his Cat-in-the-Hat as the main character. (If you are not familiar with this Dr. Suess book, it teaches the reader about all aspects of the rain forest and the eco system within the rain forest. The Cat-in-the-Hat is very upset that we are destroying our rain forest with the amount of tree's getting cut down each year.) I'm happy to know this book made such a positive impression on my teacher as it relates to our planet.

"That's a great start." I stated.
"Thanks." He replied.

I then decided to pipe in with a suggestion of my own just to see his reaction.
"There are plenty of abandoned buildings and strip malls in our area that could be rebuilt." I suggested.
"Yeah and houses, too..." He threw in.

"What else would you do?" I encouraged.

His answer not only caught me off guard, but I was very impressed with his thought process.

"If it were up to me I'd fire the mayor so no more trees would get cut down!" He roared.

I turned around to face him, as we sat in my truck, still stuck on the freeway, and found him grinning ear to ear. I smiled back and gave him a high five.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: It never too late to do our part in order to help save our environment and it's never too early to share your values with your kids and teach them by example that we all should take care of our planet.

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors, especially snowboarding and plays ice hockey on a weekly basis...and of course, always learns from his son.

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