A little over a year ago I realized something about myself that I knew was there, but for a long time was hidden from view. As a wildlife conservationist working all of my adult life in National Parks and now the El Paso Zoo, I have always focused on my job and on related environmental education and advocacy efforts. Then one day last year I discovered that I had a place in my heart that was pretty much wide open. It was a place where I have a passion for helping the less fortunate. Soon I was doing what I always seem to do, trying to make a difference by encouraging others who also care.
As a member of Rotary International for over 30 years I have been encouraged to live by the 4 way test – (1) Is it the truth?, (2) Is it fair to all concerned? (3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? (4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned? I really want my life to reflect Rotary values which in my opinion are in line with my Christian faith and everything about being an American. They are also in line with many other people’s values around the world like the global network I am a part of with 1.2 million business and professional leaders in Rotary.
The tree I helped to plant last year I am happy to report is growing. Thanks to the Rotary Club of West El Paso Foundation and most recently the Zaragoza Rotary Club, Tree of Hopes is gaining more and more support everyday. Our Helping Families in Need This Christmas Project is touching hearts as our Tree of Hopes bears fruit and grows into a stronger part of our community.
One of the greatest things that I have realized over the past year is what I describe as a “ocean of poverty” in my own back yard. Back in the 1990s when I visited El Paso’s sister city Juarez, I only experienced the business district near the Bridge of Americas. Today I am learning that the poverty of Juarez is much greater than I ever realized. I can’t sit back and just pretend that I don’t live next to this ocean. I can’t drive to work every day on I-10 and not look to the right and see the homes of so many in need. I just can’t. It is my hope that this Tree of Hopes will become a important outreach effort for good in the days ahead and that it will encourage others to plant trees of hopes everywhere.
I tell my friends that when you help the Tree of Hopes grow, you can also experience an inner peace as you realize how “we belong to each other (Mother Teresa).” Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”