sTREEts

Getting Street Trees where they are needed the most.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kids and Trees: A Growing Friendship

Kids like trees. There are some adults who like trees just as much, and some adults who point out that sometimes kids are a bit rough and end up hurting baby trees, but nevertheless kids really love trees! I can attribute at least a few of the requests we've gathered, not to mention some really good "maybe"s, to some of the neighbourhood's youngest residents.  It might be partially due to the fact that parents and other adults try to weigh the long-term pros and cons of having a tree; whereas most people under the age of ten just seem to think how fun or pretty a tree in the yard would be.

It's been about a decade since I was ten years old, but I feel like sometimes my thinking isn't all that different; so I can only imagine if someone came to my door offering a tree I'd immediately picture myself hanging off branches, or swinging from a tire tied from a rope to sturdy limbs covered in pretty leaves that rustle when it's windy and give my play-space some nice shade in the middle of the summer....Needless to say, I think the ultimate decision of whether we get a tree in our front lawn would probably not be left up to me!

But sometimes, you need that enthusiasm! There are lots of wonderful things that come from trees. Besides a jungle-gym in your front lawn, trees provide oxygen, they reduce the cost of cooling your house, and increase your property values. Many adults immediately think of potential root problems (which realistically would take decades to arise and even then only if the tree happens to be planted too close to your house or your pipes). With a ten-year-old pressuring them to request a tree, and even offering to take responsibility and water the sapling when it's first planted, I think a lot of the parents start to try a bit harder to look for some of the perks a tree in the yard might bring, or at least a good enough reason to be able to justify saying no. And when you think about it, there ARE lots of perks to having a tree! So lots of parents DO decide to request a tree!

One young gentleman in particular who I came across last week was really committed to getting a tree in his front lawn. We first met when I was about to go up the front steps of what turned out to be his friend's house while canvassing. He was about to go up the same steps, and we both stopped in front of the house to uncomfortably look at each other until one of us decided to knock first. He might have been about seven years old, was wearing a black polo shirt tucked into his black shorts, with a white dust that looked like it must have come off a powdered donut around his mouth and all over the front of his outfit. He had pretty fair features, and big eyes that looked like they took up the majority of his face when he looked up at me through his big glasses, until I finally said "You first."
"Ok", he told me, "Are you here to talk to my friend?". As he knocked and waited for a reply I explained that I was hoping to talk to his friend's parents, and told him a bit about the Street Tree Project.
"You should come to my house and give my mom a tree!" he said enthusiastically.
I told him I was trying to get houses in order, and might have been by his place already since it was on a street I didn't have notes with me for on that day.

When his friend didn't get the door, he moved out of the way of the front steps and turned to tell me it was my turn. So I knocked too, and I guess whoever lived there wasn't avoiding my new friend directly because they didn't come to the door for me either. We decided they were probably out, and after introducing ourselves properly and shaking hands, my young friend decided to walk me in the direction of his home so that I could speak to his mother. He told me they'd just sold their house (another indication that there was maybe no point in trying to convince his mom to request a tree, since they weren't going to live there much longer) and that they were going to move to Hamilton's west end. I informed him that I also live in the west end, and I think that was the moment our new friendship was solidified. I don't think I've ever met anyone who's reacted so happily to hearing I'll be living in the same half of the city as them!
When we got to about two houses away from his, he pointed to where he lived, said bye quickly, and ran off. I remember doing the same when I was younger if I was ever outside around dinner time and knew that the moment my mom saw me would signal an end to playtime for the day.

I walked up his front steps and knocked on his house door, a little hesitant because I already knew what the answer would be, and also because I was fairly certain I had already spoken with his mom and received a "No, thank you" some days before. But I'd promised him that I'd ask, so I did.
His mom got the door, and I reintroduced myself and told her that her son had sent me. She laughed and explained that they wouldn't be able to ask for a tree because they'd just sold the house, but thanked me for stopping by.

The rest of the day carried on well, but fairly uneventfully. Meeting my new little friend was a wonderful experience and probably the highlight of my canvassing thus far! It reminded me again that trees and kids really do go well together, and left me hoping to bump into him again, maybe next time in the west end of the city.

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