Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis was originally published Dec. 2, 2005. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.
I’m still trying to get used to the gray woodlands and the trees with their starkly bare limbs. The winds are colder around my house because the leaves are gone.
Squirrels and winter birds, however, find refuge in many of the evergreens that add a rich, soft color here and there.
In William Bennett’s “The Moral Compass,” I recently read an engaging legend of how the evergreens came to be “ever green.”
According to the story, winter was near, and a little bird with a broken wing had been left behind from the southern migration of its kin.
Feeling the chilly winds, the bird sought shelter from a birch tree. “Beautiful birch tree,” it said, “my wing is broken, and my friends have flown away. May I live among your branches until they come back to me?”
“No, indeed,” answered the birch tree, drawing her fair green leaves away. “We of the great forest have our own birds to help. I can do nothing to help you.”
The little bird made its plea to an oak tree, asking to stay only until spring when its own feathered flock returned.
“Until spring! I think not,” shouted the oak. “You might eat my acorns. Go find another place.”
A nearby willow looked inviting, and the little bird again made its request.
The willow drew herself up proudly and said, “I don’t know you, and we willows never talk to people whom we do not know. Leave me at once.”
Knowing it could not fly away, the little bird felt hopeless and alone. Suddenly a soft voice said, “Come here, little bird. I have a place for you.”
The spruce tree offered the warmest branch she had to the weary waif.
A friendly pine tree next to the spruce said, “And I will shelter you from the cold North Wind.”
A juniper spoke up and said, “I can help, too. My berries are good this year, ripe and sweet, and there will be enough to see you through the winter.”
The trees all kept their promise and sheltered the little bird. However, their noisy neighbors were critical and chided the spruce, pine and juniper for their charity to one they felt was undeserving.
The next morning, however, their bitter voices were silenced. A killing frost had reduced all the other trees to bare limbs through which the North Wind blew fiercely. All of their leaves lay on the ground covered by King Frost.
“May I have all those green needles and leaves of the spruce, pine and juniper, too?” the North Wind asked King Frost.
“No, indeed,” said the king. “Because of their kindness and generosity those trees will remain ever green.”
To stay green and growing, we need to stop making excuses for not helping others. We need to stop denying people help because we think they don’t deserve it. We need to do our best to meet needs wherever we find them.
Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves alone, shivering in the cold winds of our own pride and bitterness.