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The Man Who Planted Trees and Connection

The Man Who Planted Trees by the French writer Jean Giono is a fictional book that carries great wisdom in its simplicity.  In 1987, it was made into a beautiful, animated film narrated by Christopher Plummer which went on to win an Academy Award for best animated short the following year.


Decades ago, I was privileged to initially view the film and was touched by the concept of the power of one individual to create lasting positive change.  The lead character quietly plants trees on barren land, one seed at a time, with the utmost care and intent.  The arc of the story takes place through two World Wars, droughts, and chaotic life circumstances within neighbouring local communities.  Over time, due to this man’s simple efforts, new forests and life begin to re-emerge in what appears to be magical ways.  Those witnessing the phenomenon are completely unaware of this man’s name or the extent of his work and quiet heartfelt labour.


Synchronicities in life have always fascinated me.  This is when events happen in unexpected ways but seem to carry great meaning.  A few months ago, this story came to me three times in one week from completely different sources and in unrelated circumstances.  When the initial re-discovery of this parable occurred, I was touched by its gentle life whisper. By the third orchestration of its message being highlighted within such a short period of time I knew I needed to really pay attention!


It is a magnificent metaphor for the profound power and gift offered by one individual, when a task is done with pure intent for the greater good.  Without need for reward or accolade, rather in service to something bigger than oneself.


It gave me pause to reflect on those invidivuals who I have had the privilege of meeting throughout my lifetime whose lives have inspired me in similar ways.  There have been many.  It also invited me to reflect on the moments in my life when private deeds were done with that quiet depth of devotion and care.  Just to serve.  Just for love. 


My thoughts then turned to a recent recording I did for my YouTube series with Dr. Daphne Lobb, an exceptional palliative care physician, reflecting on the importance of healing connections   


During the conversation we reference a 2007 research article titled “Healing Connections: On Moving from Suffering to a Sense of Well Being” by Dr. Balfour Mount, Patricia Boston, and Robin Cohen.  It has quickly become one of my favourite articles! 

In the published paper they speak of individuals doing much better while facing a life-threatening illness when four key domains of connection are supported.  These areas of connection are with self, others (community, secure attachments), the phenomenal world (nature, music, sports) and ultimate meaning (which is unique to the individual). 


My contemplation then shifted to the ways these two expressions, at their highest, seem to compliment each other.  Initially when an individual who has become consciously aware is able to discover meaning and purpose in even the simplest of tasks.  Tasks which somehow seem to become more amplified when performed with a pure intent for a good which extends beyond oneself.  In turn, the rich gifts that connection and synergy provide. How much better we do, when life, with all its joys and burdens, is shared with others.


It all begins within our own hearts. 


If you have not yet read The Man Who Planted Trees or viewed the graceful animated short, I encourage you to do so.


Truly rich in its simple wisdom.

Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash






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