By Steve Hart
Chair, Cranaleith Spiritual Center Board of Directors
So, here it is, a picture of my literal “stake in the ground” – a small contribution to healing the planet, signifying my faith in the future, and my hope for new life as we continue to persevere through this pandemic. This little pine tree was given to me by my nephew, who thought I might like to plant it in my front yard in the very spot where I lost a beautiful pine a few years ago in a severe winter storm. Interestingly, my nephew gave me this tree on the very same day I received my second COVID-19 shot.
As I reflect on this delightful coincidence, I see that both the COVID shot for myself and the little tree for my garden both represent, in their own special way, the beginning of something new and exciting. Each opens a door to new possibilities, and creates a pathway to physical and spiritual renewal and growth after a challenging year of isolation and personal sacrifice.
My COVID shot provides me with the confidence to begin engaging with people outside of my immediate family. I can begin to venture farther afield and start doing the things I used to enjoy doing before COVID. I’m so thankful to the scientists and medical staff who have provided this opportunity and have given hope to so many allowing us to renew our relationships and reconnect with our friends and loved ones.
Planting my little tree has me thinking about Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato sí. In this document, Pope Francis provides us with a worldwide wake-up call in which he asks us to think about how we can help humanity understand the destruction that humans are doing to the planet and engage personally to restore it and heal the damage. My little tree is a reminder that we can all take personal responsibility and build communities that drive for meaningful change.
As Chair of the Cranaleith Board of Directors, I am also obsessed with trying to find new pathways to spiritual renewal and growth for all who seek comfort and solace through the mission of Cranaleith, especially those experiencing homelessness, poverty, and trauma. Looking back over the last year, I am astounded and humbled by what we have experienced and what we have learned together as a community during turbulent and uncertain times. I am especially proud of how our outstanding Program team at Cranaleith made the pivot to offer programs remotely via zoom. The quality of these programs and the high level of participation by people across the world allowed us to stay in touch with people we know, make new friends, and be a beacon of hope and inspiration for all during a difficult time. I am immensely grateful to the entire staff, all our volunteers, program participants, and the entire Board at Cranaleith for providing their unwavering support and enduring belief in our mission.
As we move through spring 2021, I reflect on how much different this year is from last year. I see that Cranaleith is rising again, newly formed and adapted to the times. For the first time in a long time, I am optimistic. I am excited about a future full of possibilities and thrilled at the prospect of walking along new pathways to physical and spiritual growth with everyone who comes into contact with Cranaleith. This is a great time to think about how you might like to get involved. We have a number of ways in which you can renew your own spirit, perhaps by volunteering in our garden, sponsoring a memorial tree to honor a loved one, or taking part in our upcoming eco-spirituality programs.
When you join the Cranaleith community as a volunteer, retreatant or donor, you’ll see that this spirit of renewal is symbolized powerfully in the natural beauty we see on the grounds of Cranaleith. Nature’s abundance and bounty is on full display. The trees, gardens, flowers, vegetables, animals, and wild life are all making their statement as if to say: “this is our common home; we continue to endure with you and we bring you the joy and the glory of God’s goodness, abundance and grace.”