Alfred DuPont came to the Florida Panhandle in the 1920s looking for a vacation home. He found and acquired a little bit more than that. After a few years of exploration DuPont owned nearly 100,000 acres of forest land stretch across Northwest Florida. And when the Great Depression struck, he used his family fortune to buy even more land, including the town of Port St. Joe, Florida. St. Joe had once been a thriving community of more than 2,000 people when times were good, and it had earned the reputation of being the “richest and wickedest city in the Southeast.” But what was left in St. Joe was a saw mill, a railroad, a telephone company, and access to shipping lanes. Now, with more than a million acres in his possession, DuPont and the St. Joe Paper Company went to work shaping the landscape of the communities we now live in. Of course, now they shape communities differently. St. Joe is a land developer, getting out of the tree and paper business more than a decade ago. No worries however, there are still plenty of paper companies out there.
See, we Americans cut down about six billion trees every year – one for every person on the planet – to sustain our lifestyles: Lumber, furniture, paper, broom handles and baseball bats, cardboard – these are obvious. But there’s so much more: Picture frames, gift wrapping, magazines, cereal boxes, toothpaste, shaving cream, rugs, rubber, soap, medicines, shoe polish. In all, more than five thousand products we use every day come from trees. And then there is what a tree can take away: An anonymous story teller tells a tale of hiring a carpenter to help restore an old farmhouse. The carpenter had just finished a rough first day on the job.
A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw had quit, and then his old pickup truck refused to start. While the homeowner drove the carpenter home, the tired laborer just sat there in silence. Upon arriving at the carpenter’s home, he invited his driver in to meet his family. As they walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. Then, when he opened the door to his home he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was all smiles, he hugged his two small children, and gave his wife a kiss. Gone was the weight and worry of the miserable day he had experienced. Afterward, he walked the home owner back to the car. They passed the tree and the man asked the carpenter about the tree and what he had seen him do earlier.
The carpenter said, “Oh, that’s my trouble tree. I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing is for sure, troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again. The funny thing is,” he said, “when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren’t nearly as many or nearly as heavy as I remember hanging up the night before.”
We all need a trouble tree, a place to hang our worries, fears, and problems. Simon Peter understood this. In a letter to his friends he wrote, “Cast the whole of your care – all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all – on God, for He cares for you.” One of the comforts of faith is that we have more than an inanimate object to unload our worries upon. We have a friend, a God who knows us by name, a God who has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ who invites us to “come to him when weary and heavy laden,” and he will give us “rest for our souls.”
That is worth more than all the trees in Alfred DuPont’s considerable fortune.