Welcome to autumn, my friends, one of my favorite times of the year in Kansas. As the summer heat begins to wane and the green landscape of our world slowly transitions to a golden amber, we have an opportunity to reflect on our good fortune. We are compelled to humbly think about the generosity of others and the importance of family, friendships, and the preciousness of time. I am often equally humbled and inspired by the generosity of others in my life. As a fellow Kansan, it is abundantly clear that we embrace author Nelson Henderson’s metaphorical assertion that we “plant trees under whose shade [we]do not expect to sit.”
As I have written about over the last few months, there are many opportunities to explore and enjoy the offerings of our beautiful state. Accordingly, I have committed to creating as many adventures as possible with my own children, their friends, and our nieces and nephews because my wife, inspired by her own family, instilled in me that it is our responsibility to weave a fabric of memories throughout the childhoods of those who will lead our family and communities going forward. I suspect that many of you are doing the very same things in your homes and with your loved ones. After all, as Kansans, we tend to prioritize others and share an interest in preserving our shared future.
Just this weekend, my youngest son and I were sitting in a blind waiting hopefully, yet fruitlessly, for a flock of turkeys to happen by. Over the three hours, I thought often of my gratitude for time with him, and Henderson’s mantra of building a thing we may never see resonated.Harvesting a turkey for the Thanksgiving table would indeed be a remarkable accomplishment; however, watching the world come to life, sitting in (near) silence, being still in the moment, and feeling the presence of history, present and future, is a far greater reward. Throughout my life I have had my own influences that fostered a love for the outdoors. In particular, one man, who generously took me on every outing he could manage, instilled a love for a sunset walk through the draw that cuts the field, the waking woods, and the meandering flint hills bass streams. That wisdom and experience has been carried forward with both of my sons hundreds of times over the years, and the hope is that they will learn the value of creating space with their own children when the time comes in their own way. The activity is, of course, of less value than the generosity of time.
During our latest outing, I couldn’t help but be reminded that the blind in which we were sitting was hand-built as a surprise for me and my boys by my cousin. After many months of generous design, he brought it to our home as an entirely unexpected gift. This was his “shade tree,” which he offered as his contribution to that fabric we are weaving for the future. We will care for this physical structure not so much because of its monetary value but because it is a venue in which memories will be built that will far outlast ourselves.
My family and I live in a community along a lakeshore, and our neighbors are guided by the principle of serving others over self. That our blind sits on the land of a close friend and neighbor who is among the most generous and thoughtful people I have ever known, underscores my fortune. He provides access to the land that makes this all possible. In turn, we take great care to ensure that it is left better than we found it. He deserves our very best, just as my children deserve to understand our appreciation for him so that they may also know the value of “planting trees” for others.
This is the last published article before we all sit down to break bread with our respective loved ones at the end of November. When you do, revel in the opportunity you have to be with them. Enjoy the food, but savor the time. Plant the proverbial tree. It will make all the difference. Stay safe. Be well. See you in the country.