By Tony Brumfield
I want to begin my reflection on resilience by talking about the tree outside our window. That tree needs certain things to withstand difficult times. For one, it needs to be firmly rooted. The Earth not only holds it in place but provides nutrients. The tree needs water. When a tree doesn't get enough water, or the quality of its water is poor, the tree becomes vulnerable to disease. Trees also need air. Trees breathe. Trees need sunlight. Sunlight, water, and air are needed for trees to generate food. The temperature of the air can neither be too hot nor too cold. But trees need more than physical things. Trees thrive best in a forest. I must say that we human beings need the trees in our lives. Not just the trees but all the other living things in our world. And they need us. The resilience of this world very much relies on us human beings being responsible, not just for us, but for all of life.
Now, we human beings, in many ways, need the same things that the tree needs. We also need nutrients, clean air, clean water, and sunlight. We also need aforest of living things to sustain us.
When we humans talk about the relationship of health to resilience, we usually talk about eating right and exercising. The one thing that we usually don't talk about is sleep, giving our body the time it needs to recover. Our society even reveres people who brag about how little they sleep, but the science is clear. Every part of our body begins to disintegrate when it doesn't get the time it needs to recuperate. It becomes more difficult for us to focus our attention. Our ability to create memories and recall them, our ability to learn, and our judgment is compromised. We become irritable. Like a tree without water, we become more vulnerable to disease. If we do get sick, our ability to resist and recover is compromised. We become less resilient when we don't get the rest that our body needs.
Now, we must not think that there are people who are resilient and people who aren't. All of us have some resilience. I don't want us to value people who are more resilient over people who are less resilient. There are some in this world who have been challenged over and over again. There are some children in my school who have grown up in homes with substance abuse and so much violence that it feels normal. Some suffer from historical trauma because their people have suffered for generations. We mustn't throw these people away as if they're a lost cause, as if their lives could not possibly amount to anything of value.
Did you know, that right here in our mountains, there are oak trees and sometimes these oak trees get knocked over. Unlike in the city, in the mountains there is no street crew that drives up, cuts the tree into pieces, and hauls it away. In the forest, the tree just lies there. And in time, a miracle occurs. If any part of that tree's roots remains in place, the tree will sprout new branches and leaves. The tree is resurrected. It comes back to life. Human beings are that way. I've seen children in my school comeback to life. If wounded human beings are provided with a safe environment and are provided opportunities for an education, work, and connection to a human community, they will come back to life. I've discovered resilience is an inherent part of every living thing. Provided a nurturing environment, all living things will come back to life.
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