It has been said that the true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
Not long ago I received an email from a childhood friend who was in my boy scout troop when I was a teenager. My father had been our scout leader, and in the email Alan passed along a memory:
“Years ago, when we were young scouts, we were hiking and stopped on the edge of a long, steep embankment. Soon we were rolling large boulders down the mountain and watching them as they gathered momentum and bounced out of sight. Your dad came by and gently taught us a life lesson.
He said, “Boys, while what you are doing is exciting and seems to be fun, have you ever considered those who might be on the same trail that you came up and how your actions might be putting them in danger?” Then he quietly walked away.
I thought you might like to know of the positive influence from your dad that remains in my life.”
Since receiving Alan’s email, I have been contemplating carefully the impact of my father on my life and the tree of consideration that he planted under whose shade many of us are now sitting.
The verb consider comes from the Latin for contemplate, and hidden in the word is sid, the Latin root for star. Originally it meant to examine something very thoroughly, or carefully, as if you were staring at the night sky, contemplating its mystery. If you give something consideration, you think about it carefully, and not too quickly. Without consideration, without careful contemplation of how attitudes and actions impact others, long-term consequences can be devastating: homes get broken, groups become marginalized, civility is eroded, and humanity suffers.”
My father was loved by the people he spent time with – in large part because he exhibited this precious human quality of consideration. It came through practice – and from taking the time. Just as the early astronomers didn’t rush their observation of the far-off stars in the night sky so they could better understand what they were observing, we too can invest time in nurturing consideration for the constellation of the people in our lives – and the impact our actions have upon them.