Short Story: The Oak Tree And The Ants

imagePHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay


There was a particular oak tree that sat on the hill of a countryside hidden from the reaches of the city. It was an ordinary oak tree yet it was also not just any other oak tree. Sturdy and beautifully mahogany colored bark, strong branch-of-an-arm that stretched out toward the heavens and, luscious healthy green leaves that decorate the branches those branches make this oak tree a beautiful sight to behold.

Playing companion to couples-in-love and kids on their Sunday family days and having acted as the backdrop for more than a dozen wedding photo shoots, the oak tree was in contentment. “With my coat of green, yellow and red I’ve shaded the young and old, the poor and the rich through the seasons unfailing. Through thunderstorms and seasonal winds that threaten to uproot me, I have lasted and stand firm. I’ve indeed lived a full life.. My life is complete..!” thought the good ol’ tree to himself.

Yet for years, the good ol’ tree could not tolerate one – the ants whom have made their home by his roots, climbing up his back (and front) as they have pleased. It was like a thorn in the flesh to the good ol’ tree, an itch he cannot relieve.

One fine day, with one mighty swing of his limps and rustle of his coat he finally broke with silence with authority and gusto, “I want you to depart from me now!” The ants froze in their tracks for a moment before orderly making their way towards the distant horizon. The good ol’ tree was pleased. After all, it went much smoother than expected. For a while, the tree was contented, being left alone felt like a crumb stuck in the teeth for a good period of time finally removed. That feeling was surreal, and the good ol’ tree thought things could only look brighter. Or so he thought.

No sooner than a week after the ants’ departure, the good ol’ tree became sick. Without the care of the ants, disease was spreading across his body like wildfire. The once beautiful mahogany of a bark was coming apart bit by bit, his coat was like the thinning hair of an old man. No longer attractive, the people stopped coming, children stopped playing by his side, the good ol’ tree was dying physically and emotionally, and now truly left.. alone.

It was then that the good ol’ tree realized his folly, issuing the ants the great exodus was his undoing. A threatening rainstorm hit the good ol’ tree hard that night, only this time he didn’t seem to be able to make it through the night. Despondent, the tree howled with the strong winds “Please come back my friends” while the winds slowly ate away at what was left of his previously beautiful coat of old.

The following morning, the good ol’ tree awoken from his slumber, astonished that he made it to the night, astonished that he actually felt a little better. That familiar unquenchable itch has returned, only this time the tree was glad.

There are people that will get on our backs like a thorn in the flesh or a detestable itch. Yet some of them are those who truly cared, some who helped us become who we are and some whom our destinies are intertwined with.

Building a City that Cares starts with Me

I was volunteering with CityCare at  Jamiyah Children’s Home just last Saturday. It was one of the 20 lesson reading program, CityCare has tied up with Reader’s Digest and Jamiyah Children’s Home for the lower and upper primary kids at the Home.

It was an enriching experience for me as I am able to bless and touch their lives, even in a small way. Over there, as any would expect, some of the children are much rowdier than the average kid you find outside. But how can we be so cruel as to blame or even judge them? Some of these kids have parents who can’t afford to pay for their daily expenses, some have one and/or both parents serving their prison term, some were sent here on a Court Order. Many of the kids have gone through hardships way beyond what we can imagine.

My heart goes out for these kids at Jamiyah Children’s Home. Many of them are quite intelligent really, but they have much lesser opportunities in life due to various reasons. I really see potential in some of them. How much they desire to succeed is dependent on them, but the environment they are in also plays a big part. The resources at the Home will never be enough and the environment would only be very encouraging up to a certain extent, that’s why it is up to kind souls out there to contribute monetarily or non-monetarily (visitations, etc). They do not need our sympathy, they however do need our empathy and our help.

I hope that readers after reading this blog entry would have a desire [even if it’s only a glimpse] to do volunteering or join a Non-Profit Organization (NPO) to volunteer their services. You may not even necessarily be helping children only, you can choose to serve the underprivileged or the disabled (elderly, prison inmates, terminally ill patients, disadvantaged families, youth-at-risks or the intellectually disabled). To quote the organization I am with (CityCare), “Building a City that Cares”, I truly believe that Building a City that Cares starts with Me (Self).

Volunteering may not even take up much of our time if we’re very busy. I haven’t been volunteering much the past few months but I have decided to make a commitment to come down to Jamiyah Children’s Home to spend one to one and a half hours every Saturday for the next 10 weeks to go down to the Home and volunteer my services with CityCare. Anyone can stretch out a helping hand regardless of status, student or working professional, race, language or religion. All we need is a willing heart to serve and bless others.

At the end of the day, perhaps in our own point of view we didn’t really accomplish much in that one or two hours, but in the eyes of the people we have helped, we have indeed made a big difference in their lives.

Yours Sincerely,
Reuel Eugene