Amplifying Voices

Treevival as a Giveaway
by Emily Myron -- April 16th, 2012

What can we learn from a tree?
So by now, you have read a lot about the Treevival. You have read about how we came up with the idea, about how we created the tree and the leaves, about how we hope it makes you take the time to reflect on your moral obligation to the planet (If you haven’t, see more on Jack, Jen, and Alistar’s blogs).  What I want to talk about is how Treevival was, in part, inspired by a piece in Moore and Nelson’s Moral Ground about berries.

The pieces in Moral Ground run the gamut – from caring about the earth for its intrinsic value, to caring for future generations, or for the sake of humankind – you name a reason, and there is a piece about it. The beauty of this collection is that it highlights how many people care, and, at the same time, how many different reasons one can find to feel that way. After reading most of these pieces, one that continues to stand out to me is “The Giveaway,” by Robin W. Kimmerer.

“The Giveaway” tells of a beautiful Potawatomi tradition centered on giving back. On this day, everyone lays out gifts for one another, and “It is the honored one who gives the gifts, who piles the blanket high to share good fortune with everyone in the circle.” Each is entitled to one gift, but, “Sometimes there’s someone… who doesn’t understand and takes too much…Maybe they need it. Maybe not. They don’t dance, but sit alone, guarding their stuff.” This misinformed (yes, not necessarily greedy, but misinformed) person exhibits humanity’s dominant mindset. We forget that we are all connected, that we all rely on one another, and that if we take too much, we not only leave less for others, but we also isolate ourselves.

As a part of the Giveaway, a bowl of berries is passed around the circle. Just one bowl, and one spoon. This is done to remind the participants that “We are all fed from the same bowl that Mother Earth has filled for us. There is but one spoon, the same size for everyone.” The Earth does nothing but provide for us – clean water, fresh air, sweet berries – yet we consistently take more than our fill. We treat the bowl as bottomless, and use a shovel, rather than a spoon.

At the end, Kimmerer calls for us to “…hold a giveaway for Mother Earth. Spread out our blankets for her and pile them high with gifts of our own making…. Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision, all offered up on behalf of the Earth.” This is what Treevival is. It is a giveaway to the planet. It is each of us giving our promise to care for her; it is each of us watching our promise grow as bright and beautiful wildflowers. Together, we could plant a field of wildflowers with all our promises.

I think we can all benefit from a yearly Giveaway. This is what Earth Day should be – a day for  renewing love and commitment to the planet. A day when we can remember one bowl, one spoon, and one leaf for each to plant in their garden. As Kimmerer said, the honor lies with the one who gives; a tradition often overlooked in our society.

Treevival is only one way in which we can give back. It is a simple way, something everyone can do with very little effort. But it allows us to imagine the the limitless possibilities of what we each can give and how, together, those can be one of the greatest gifts mankind could give. It shows us that we are not alone – we are part of a community of concerned citizens of Earth. We each have our own reason for caring, for feeling a moral obligation to the planet, but we are not alone.

We hope that Treevival can be an inspiration, for “Where better to look for wisdom than among those who make food of air and light and give it all away.” Just as we can revive our tree by each of us taking the pledge, we can revive the planet by each of us taking action.



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