To Be a Tree

Josh Braden July 30, 2015

They are like trees planted by the river bank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.”
Jeremiah 17:8

“Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.”
-Wendell Berry

There’s no doubt about it, we are lovers of trees here at camp. As I write here
at the hub of Deer Camp, I look out at the thriving green forest of maples, oaks,
rhododendrons, and mountain laurel around us. On hot days like this, the Hickory
and Hemlock tribes are particularly grateful for the shade the green canopy above
us provides. You also well know that all of the tribes here at camp are named after
an iconic tree. Add to that, two of our most cherished and rambunctiously sung
songs here have to do with being trees.

So call it goofy, but I’m convinced that our work with your son here at camp
has quite a bit to do with trees! I’ve seen this in many ways, but the most profound
are these: I’ve seen boys and young men coming to know that they belong in the
world, and I’ve seen them learning to give their own unique gifts right back to that
A tree is, simply put, grounded. It belongs in the earth, and if it finds enough
nutrients and water, it sinks in its roots—for life. One of my favorite parts of the two
weeks here is at our council and fireside ceremonies, where the counselors take
special time to speak truth over each of their campers. We celebrate their gifts, and
simply give a big “yes!” to who they are. It’s just like giving a tree water and healthy
soil to grow up in. It’s telling them that they belong in the forest of the world with
the rest of us, no matter what kind, shape, or size they take. It’s my deepest hope
that every boy here sinks his roots deeper into God’s love. Just between last summer
and this summer, I’ve seen this movement in boys in every single tribe. It’s an
amazing thing to watch boys simply becoming more at home with who they are.
The beautiful part of belonging to a “forest,” a tribe, or a community, is that
it’s not all about “me.” Thank goodness that’s the case! So while we celebrate what
each camper has to offer, there’s always the wonderful invitation of giving that gift
away. Trees are great providers of shelter, shade, oxygen, and all sorts of other great
stuff. It’s the same story with being a human: once we’re planted in God’s love, all
this wonderful stuff starts to come out of us. We begin to give back to our
communities, share laughter and tears of friendship, and provide a strong trunk to
lean on when others need us. What could be better than that, to give away our lives
to the rest of the forest we belong to? It’s a beautiful thing, and I see it happening
every single day. Inch by inch, our roots grow down.


Josh Braden

2015 Hemlock TD

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