September 13, 2019
By Peter Diaz, Service Learning & Immersion Coordinator and Religion Teacher at Mercy High School in Burlingame, California
My father was a very calm and patient man, and I don’t recall him raising his voice at me that often as a child. But one episode stands out clearly in my mind. I was eight years old, and my cousin, Bruce, and I wanted desperately to build a Native American teepee. However, living on the island of Guam as we did, we had to improvise on the building materials. The next best thing to leather hide was coconut branches, so we went to work on the trees in my back yard.
Later, I distinctly remember my father yelling my name to come out to the backyard. He angrily told me that I had cut too many branches of the coconut trees and that they could die as a result. He warned me that if they should die, I would get the belt.
As expected, I was very afraid, but also confused as to why he was so angry. They were just trees! Then it finally dawned on me that trees are also alive, just like me. Just as I need water and sunshine to survive, so do they. Realizing this, I immediately walked up to each and every coconut tree that I had cut branches off, placed my hand on their trunks and sincerely apologized for having hurt them. I truly felt remorse for what I had done.