After months of wandering, searching for an organization, coalition or community family to fully commit myself to, grow with and implement agreed upon strategies that will have it’s a greater impacts in the community, I was forced to take pause and look at the worthiness of my frequent activities. With help from my family, mainly my beautiful daughters who demanded “less time in meetings and more mommy-time,” I decided to limit my community activities, even leisure and endeavored to allow God to bring me into a more purposed-filled life. So that my step would be ordered by Him it required me to be more mindful of where I invested my time and with whom I invested time with.

There are several wonderful organizations and missions that one could connect with in the name of “the movement” alone, but I found that without proper alignment of life principles, objectives, professionalism, ideals and intent; involvement would often be just that–movement and not much else; actions devoid fulfillment and internal/external reward.  

Cothinkk2_Color1Nevertheless, a foretaste of fulfillment searched for was discovered last year when a community friend, Tracey Dorsett, though residing in another city, saw fit to lend her leadership and vision to us through CoThinkk, a giving circle focused on supporting Black and Latino communities through collective communal offerings; time talent and treasure.

After months of forming, storming and arduous strategic planning we arrived; our soft launch celebration October 25! I was asked to perform spoken word. I hadn’t written in sometime and didn’t want to contrive just because, so from my heart and in the words of Shel Silverstein, an author of children’s books I saw this short story The Giving Tree as a befitting vehicle by which I proposed to encourage my CoThinkk family and our beloved community!  

The Giving Tree
By Shel Silverstein

Once there was a tree….
and she loved a little boy.
And everyday the boy would come and
he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns
and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches
and eat apples.
And they would play hide-and-go-seek.
And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree…. very much.
And the tree was happy.

But time went by.
And the boy grew older.
And the tree was often alone.
Then one day the boy came to the tree
and the tree said,
“Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk
and swing from my branches
and eat apples and play in my shade and be happy.”
“I am too big to climb and play” said the boy.
“I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money?”
“I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I have no money.
I have only leaves and apples.
Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city.
Then you will have money and you will be happy.”
And so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered her apples and carried them away.
And the tree was happy.

But the boy stayed away for a long time….
and the tree was sad. And then one day the boy came back and
the tree shook with joy and she said,
“Come, Boy, climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and be happy.”
“I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy.
“I want a house to keep me warm,” he said.
“I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house.
Can you give me a house ?”
“I have no house,” said the tree.
“The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house.
Then you will be happy.”
And so the boy cut off her branches and carried them away to build his house.
And the tree was happy.

But the boy stayed away for a long time.
And when he came back, the tree was so happy she could hardly speak.
“Come, Boy,” she whispered, “come and play.”
“I am too old and sad to play,” said the boy.
“I want a boat that will take me far away from here.
Can you give me a boat?”
“Cut down my trunk and make a boat,” said the tree.
“Then you can sail away… and be happy.”
And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away. And the tree was happy … but not really.

And after a long time the boy came back again.
“I am sorry, Boy,” said the tree,” but I have nothing left to give you – My apples are gone.”
“My teeth are too weak for apples,” said the boy.
“My branches are gone,” said the tree. ” You cannot swing on them – ”
“I am too old to swing on branches,” said the boy.
“My trunk is gone, ” said the tree. “You cannot climb – ”
“I am too tired to climb” said the boy. “I am sorry,” sighed the tree.
“I wish that I could give you something…. but I have nothing left.
I am just an old stump. I am sorry….”
“I don’t need very much now,” said the boy.
“just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”
“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could,
“well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting Come, Boy, sit down.
Sit down and rest.”
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.

[My words following the reading]

In this children’s book we see the beauty and danger of selfless giving! The tree epitomizes the power of giving and how giving can forge powerful, lifelong connections – meeting great needs and solving life’s problems. The boy reflects the selfishness our human nature in all it’s conceit and  materialism – irresponsible at best.

The character of the tree – used in a number of our planning demonstrations as a tool to help this group recognize our black communities strengths and resilience – represents this honorable team AND THE COMMUNITY WE’LL SERVE.  

The tree gives the boy her branches when he longs for recreation, apples to sell when he needs money, more branches to build with when he asks for a home, her trunk to carve a boat out of when he wants to get away, and a stump to sit on – hopefully to reflect on his decision – when he needed rest.

She gave and gave and gave! Apples, branches and her core.

Her treasure, talent and time…

And through her testimony – THE GIVING TREE – we see a beautiful story with a shattering end! Ten million copies of Shel Silverstein’s story made, telling a tale commentated and analyzed by many scholars. My interpretation is that the tree is our black community, growing from the roots slavery to flourishing and robust to near bare and now depleted again! So today from our stump I give this speech to help us reflect on, not only on the tragedy of Black Asheville’s unique narrative but on the resurrecting power of hope that come from a unity, a vision and cooperti-vism!  

REST ON THIS THOUGHT ASHEVILLE – most fruitful apple trees are planted in pairs, so not far off from the stumps of urban renewal God planted a tree in seed form in a women named Yvette – that seed is Tracey and today because of her leadership and a community’s willingness and fervent desire to “see change happen in our community“ we are not reduced to a stump where beggars and wine-o reminisce on the high days but a stump where we sit gazing upon our new beginnings dreaming and looking on the horizon with the certitude that what we commemorate this day will meet a many needs; fruitful we shall be, never barren.


Sheneika Smith


Written by datemycity