Saturday, January 13, 2007

Stanley’s Journey

Reflection delivered by Warren Brown at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron
Dec. 3, 2006

When I met Stanley he was chopping wood. It was a cold and rainy morning in early March of 1994. By the time I got there at nine, he had been at it for several hours. The old trailer hitched to his Ford tractor was bulging with firewood. Later, as I was helping him stack the wood in an already full wood shed, I asked him why he was chopping more just before spring. He explained that when he got up at five that morning it was raining too hard to work in the field. So he decided to chop wood until it cleared. The clouds broke just as the wagonload of wood was empty. And he headed out to plant 25 red oak trees.

That’s the way all of Stanley’s mornings started. His work was determined by weather and by season. If it was too rainy to plant, he would chop. If it was too hot to chop he would prune. If it was too cold to prune he would mend. The only thing that Stanley never did was nothing. Because as he told it, there was never nothing to do.

Stanley was a farmer. By the time I met him, he had been a farmer all of his 82 years.

His Dad was a farmer, as was his Grand Dad. Altogether, they farmed the same Medina County land for over 125 years. Theirs was one of the once countless small American family farms handed down generation to generation that have all but disappeared from the landscape.

Over the years, Stan and his family raised a number of different crops. At one time or another, they raised corn and soy and wheat. But by the early thirties they were dairy farmers. It was also at this time that Stan started doing something that was unusual for the 1930’s. Their farm had a number of steep hills and erosion was always a problem. To hold the sharp grades, Stan started planting Scotch Pines. This proved much more effective than the grasses that most farmers used. And it began a practice that would later become much more than land management.

By the early sixties, Stan began to have health problems. Frequently, in the course of his work he would become dizzy and then violently ill. He was diagnosed with Maniere’s Disease an inner ear disorder that made the work of dairying impossible. Sadly, Stan sold off his herd and equipment.

With his dairy income gone, he was persuaded to sell timber from the forested areas of the farm. But this proved more difficult than he had thought. Watching as the mighty trees that had stood over his land through all memory were felled, he was filled with grief. And as the first trucks loaded with logs began to leave, he stopped them. He made them unload, paid them for their time, and told them never to return.

Now Stanley knew what he wanted to do. He began planting trees. Not just a few. But many, many trees.

500 Norway Spruce.
500 Tulips
2000 White Pines
3000 Red Oak.
Beach, White Oak, Sweetgum, Red and Scotch Pines, Black Walnut, High Yeild Sugar Maples.

Stanley was not planting a tree farm. Many were species that would never mature in his lifetime. This wasn’t planting to harvest for his own gain. He was planting because he loved to plant. He lived everyday, doing what he loved the most. And by the end of his life in 2001, he had planted over one hundred thousand trees. His 125 year family farm is now mostly forest.

Each of us is on a journey. We trudge our paths seeking meaning in the passage, and a destination that rewards the effort. But people like Stanley remind us that the journey itself IS the reward. And that which we seek, we can find everyday, if we’re willing to see it.

In 1997, Stanley and Esther Allard willed upon their deaths their family farm to the Medina County Parks district. And today, if you travel down Remson Road in Granger Township, about ¾ of a mile west from Medina Line Road, you will come to Allardale – one of the most beautiful and scenic parks in region – including, as estimated by the National Park Service, Stanley’s 100,000 trees.

Stanley Allard’s journey led him to plant trees. He didn’t have a park in mind as he was doing it. But through his selfless and persistent efforts a place of peace, tranquility, and beauty exists for all of us to enjoy from now on.

What do we seek on our journeys? Do we seek knowledge, or power, or security? Maybe we should just go about the business of traveling. Joyfully planting a little of ourselves as we go.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey today.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Freedom Files Films

Join the ACLU of Ohio and the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron for a screening of an episode from the TV series "The ACLU Freedom Files," followed by a discussion led by Carrie Davis, ACLU of Ohio staff attorney. Wednesday- 1.31.07 and 3.14.07 7:00PM.

Unitarian Universalist Church-3300 Morewood Ave., Akron
Off Market street across from Summit Mall.

Coffee and dessert provided. Child care is available. If needed, please call ahead at 330.836.2206.

ACLU Freedom Files: Racial Profiling
1.31.07 | wednesday
7:00 pm

Do you believe in equality? Are you concerned about the growing use of racial profiling to combat terrorism and everyday crime? Ready to hear the stories of those who have been profiled?

ACLU Freedom Files: Women's Rights
3.14.07 | wednesday
7:00 pm

The episode tells the stories of immigrant retail workers in New York who stood up to their abusive boss; women who stood up to receive equal funding for sports in their communities; and women whose health was endangered because Medicaid wouldn't cover their abortions.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Racial Harmony Group

The first mtg. of the Racial Harmony group will be on Feb, 19th, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, in room 405. At that time the group will decide on whether to meet once or twice a month. We will be affiliated with the Small Group Ministry program.
In his book, THE SOUL OF POLITICS, Jim Wallis asks, "What is racism?" He defines it as prejudice plus power. "The task for white Americans is to examine ourselves, our relationships, our institutions and our society for the ugly plague of racism. He states that the "Nation's original sin of racism must be faced in a way that we have never really done before. Only then can America be rediscovered. "
Please join us in this exciting task.
For questions or to register call Mary Kapper at (330) 836=4361

The other day I followed a link to a blog post by Rev. Sean Dennison titled, "Returning to the Table Again and Again" I won't try to summarize his post; you need to follow the link and read what he had to say. His post led me to a sermon by Martha Niebanck titled "Breaking the Rules" .

In his post Rev. Dennison talks about the difficultly of having conversations about topics like racism, discrimination and diversity. I have to admit that I have often found myself personally uncomfortable with these topics, and I've "left the table or avoided dinning" there at all. But several members of our Social Action Committee pushed for the formation of this group, and brought Bill and Jeannette Avery to talk with us about the Racial Harmony Group they formed at First Unitarian Church of Cleveland. Their enthusasm and willingness to come to the table encouraged us to form our own Racial Harmony Group starting with a small group ministry within our own church. Jeannette passed away last May, and I could not help but think of her when I read Martha Niebanck's tribute to Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley.

I hope that our newly formed Racial Harmony Group will grow and invite members of our congregation and others in our community to "Return to the Table Again and Again."