Trees down on Cowpens Avenue, Towson, MD, August 28, 2011 (Hurricane Irene) Photo: amy vanwestervelt
Eleven days ago, an earthquake rocked the Mid-Atlantic region. Then, five days later, Hurricane Irene moved through the area, bringing down trees and power lines that disrupted service to over four million people along the East Coast.
And now, looking at the weather forecast, we’ve got rain and thunderstorms predicted for every day through next Saturday. The ground is already saturated, and many trees weakened by the first two natural disasters in the last two weeks will struggle to survive the constant rains and winds that will trudge through the region at some ungodly slow pace.
These trees can take only so much before they surrender and fall to the ground — a life of 100+ years ended by the forces of nature.
Or maybe not. Perhaps all of our development has led to the rapid erosion of the areas surrounding our trees, making them more susceptible to oversaturation and high winds not buffered by a tough, surrounding terrain untouched by man.
This vulnerability — this quick breakdown of once-mighty oaks and evergreens — reminds me of what is happening to both our youth and our older generations alike.
We were, not too long ago, a tough breed. We had to move to live, to survive and thrive, both as children and in our adult lives. We were not coddled, over-protected, over-booked with too-safe activities. We took risks out of both necessity and desire. At any age, we didn’t expect anybody to do anything for us. As well, we didn’t think twice about helping others, because we had a basic respect, a faith and trust, in the people comprising our community.
The real tragedy here is this: Not that we’ve all been weakened by the lack of risk-taking movement and survive-and-thrive mentality; it’s that there are fewer and fewer mighty oaks and evergreens standing tall in our society. Tragically, we’re becoming nothing more than a conservative ground cover, staying close to the surface and being a little too territorial, pushing away others and seeing little of what the rest of the world has to offer.
We do our best to teach our kids to take those risks, but we’re now fighting an uphill battle. They have many expectations of what they believe is due to them, and they resist the challenge to move and take control of their lives, of their personal growth.
And let’s face it. They’re not the first generation of coddled kids; we struggle with this ourselves because, like it or not, we’re an MTV generation of remote controls, speedy drive-thrus, and pizzas delivered in 30 minutes or less. We are now desperately trying to reverse the direction in which we were raised. Not an easy task for any of us; so who are we to blame our own kids for expecting a little too much, and daring a tad not enough?
It seems to me that, if we expect a change in our children, we need to strengthen the roots in our own lives so that they have a few mighty oaks in their upbringing to show them how brave they can actually be in their own lives.