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Stay Standing by Anonymous

artwork by AI


Broken, yet still existing. Falling apart yet still serving a purpose. Despite it all, the tree was still standing. As I walked along the path, noticing all the greenery, I came to a halt when I looked up and saw an archway being created by a tree. The tree had chocolate-colored bark splitting off it. It had green pieces of life covering parts of its body. It was home to groups of off-white mushrooms. At first glance, it looked like a sad defeated tree that had fallen in a storm, but after taking a closer look, I realized that it was not defeated and that it was still standing despite the universe trying to knock it down.

After observing the injured tree, the first thing I wondered was how the tree was still alive after being partially split at the base. Pieces of the tree were splintering up towards the sky, while the rest of the base of the tree arched towards the walkway. Once I returned from my nature walk, I took to the computer and learned that even though a tree has been damaged, if enough healthy limbs remain, the tree can survive.

I relate to the tree, and I believe every other human being can, too. Part of the trunk of the tree was breaking off at the base, yet somehow the roots still clung tightly to the earth. I had no clue how long the tree had been there, barely surviving, but I could only assume that it had been since the derecho tore through the town a couple of years prior. That tree had been fighting against gravity with all its strength for many years, and it was winning.

Even though it was broken, that tree served a purpose. It was a growing environment for the small flat mushrooms that grew along the trunk, and a home to the lichen that grew on the bark. The hollow inside created a perfect home for an army of ants. Its horizontal length provided a natural bridge for squirrels to travel on to get from tree to tree.

To the casual eye, the purposes the tree served were not visible, but as I took a closer look, I saw the many functions the tree possessed. Society has taught us that objects or people are not useful if they are broken, but that is wrong. Broken things still have a purpose. Individuals beaten down by life still have a purpose and are still essential to society. Worn-down individuals still make the world complete because of the small contributions they make to society every day. By simply being ourselves and choosing to stand tall, we are all serving a greater purpose than we realize. Everyone brings something different to the table. The struggling tree fought back and pushed through the challenges it faced to stay standing, so we should as well.

While the tree was unbelievably strong, it wasn’t alone. The trees around it helped to hold it up. Their branches wrapped around the trunk of the tree and took in all of its weight. The tree was resilient yet relied on help from its support system to help it stay standing against the challenges getting thrown at it. The surrounding trees caught the tree when it fell even though they were smaller in size and had to sacrifice some of their branches getting bent to help support the tree. In life sometimes individuals sacrifice themselves to help another individual flourish. A support system can make all the difference when going through something challenging. Our peers can provide motivational words to push us toward success. Our family and friends can provide resources to help us recover. They can listen and be a source of calm in the chaos of the storm. Or they can catch us when we fall and help us stand until we are ready to stand on our own again.

As I walked under the archway the tree made and toward the end of the trail, everything around me stopped and I told myself, “If the tree can have life kick it down until it is barely standing and win the fight against gravity and still be full of life, so can I.” Life throws challenges at everyone but it is how we respond to the challenge that shows what kind of person we are. Challenges help us to build resilience that in the end will be worth the struggle and pain that comes along with them.

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