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Need a treatment for cynicism? Dig holes and plant bushes

by Colleen Kujawa

I spent the final Saturday in September digging and standing in holes. I walked residence sore, sweaty and pleased. And buoyed towards the naysaying that goes hand in hand with residing in an advanced metropolis.

Dozens of individuals confirmed up at Athletic Subject Park in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood that morning for a mass tree planting. They picked up shovels and swung grime to deliver verdant new life to the parkways of the streets close by. The outdated proverb remains to be true: It takes a village to make a distinction. It takes individuals displaying up.

My staff of 4, led by Openlands treekeeper Floyd, planted 5 bushes in three hours. We hustled. We measured, we dug, we finessed. After we discovered ourselves planting within the shade, we celebrated our success. After we moved on to the following patch of grass and needed to labor below the solar, we quietly cursed. Or at the least I did.

While you plant a tree, the opening you’ve dug has to have a flat backside. In any other case, the tree gained’t stand and develop straight, as my teammates and I realized from Floyd. Which means you must stomp the grime together with your toes. After three hours of labor, I mastered the artwork of stomping Chicago parkway grime flat.

My teammates Maureen and Arsenio weren’t tree planting newbies like Cristina and me, which I playfully declared gave us an edge over the opposite groups. We weren’t competing, however nonetheless, 5 bushes in three hours? Floyd checked out us like a proud papa.

Arsenio advised us that he likes to verify on one of many bushes he planted in one other neighborhood at a earlier occasion. He drives by in his automobile to have a look. After committing my sweat and modest muscle energy to this effort, I understood why. I turned a part of that funding — of so many individuals’s time, in addition to cash, assist and coordination from the organizations and leaders who make good issues occur.

Once I reported for the check-in that morning, I stood alongside not solely on a regular basis Chicagoans but additionally a few of my representatives and different elected officers. They spoke to the group throughout introductions, then they bought right down to enterprise like the remainder of us and later headed residence with grime caught to their footwear.

Does it matter to see the leaders of my group care about one thing as low-key as a tree planting that isn’t a media photo-op? Sure, it does.

We make a distinction by displaying up. In the event you’ll forgive my bluntness, cynicism is for the lazy. I helped put bushes within the floor as a result of I’m making a selection.

I’m not resistant to cynicism or disenchantment. I’ve skilled my fair proportion of adversity, generally to a crushing diploma. I’ve watched as family members have gone by means of related pains. As a journalist and a stakeholder, I’ve paid consideration to the sorrow and injustices which have battered this metropolis and state and nation — in addition to the behind-the-scenes work that’s being completed to switch grief and struggling with therapeutic and empowerment and create significant systemic change.

I’m making a selection. I select to shake off weariness and get entangled, even in small methods, as a result of I don’t wish to sit on the sidelines. I wish to be a participant.

For a tree to face and develop straight, we now have to point out up. And we now have to concentrate.

Colleen Kujawa is a content material editor who works with the Tribune Editorial Board.