What I Learned from a Walk Through the Redwoods
Written by Megan Carson
Recently our family went on a hike in one of our favorite places - a spectacular State Reserve about a 40-minute drive from our home. This particular reserve claims to be home to the tallest Redwood tree in the world, though in their midst you feel like each one of them could be the tallest.
As you walk down into the cool, shaded grove of towering trees, you immediately feel microscopic amongst these gentle giants. Being the tallest type of tree in the world, they can grow to over 360 feet. With a height like that, you might assume that their roots grow hundreds of feet deep into the ground. But, interestingly, Redwoods have a very shallow root system that only reaches about 6-12 feet deep. Their strength lies in their roots stretching out, intertwining their roots with the roots of the other trees in the grove, reaching outward up to 50 feet, just below the surface of the ground.
These beautiful, majestic giants gain strength from being connected to each other. Their roots intertwine and merge into a connectedness that allows them to nourish each other and hold each other up. When winds and storms, floods and earthquakes come, these trees stand firm and tall because of the connected community their roots have created.
This most recent walk through this favorite Redwood forest followed a trail of thoughts in my mind about the individuals and families I've come to know who are currently seeking refuge from their war-torn countries and traumatic personal experiences. They have been uprooted, through no choice of their own, now seeking a safe place to plant down their roots in a secure spot that will allow them to find relief and refuge.
But, more than that, just like these Redwoods, they need places where they can find connection and community. They need others who will reach out and grab a hold of their tender roots, holding on to them and merging their roots into one. This connectivity will help us all grow into bigger, stronger individuals, than we can possibly be standing solo.
What we will find, I'm certain, is that those connections and that community will end up being just as much, if not more, beneficial to those of us who welcome them in and nourish them as our own. From my experience in coming to know the refugees in my circle of friends, they will add to our lives with a rich abundance, resulting in a community that is stronger because of who they are and what they have to offer.
The Emerald Project is a Utah-based organization that carefully designs dialogues to engage with non-Muslims to make Salt Lake Valley a more welcoming home to Muslims. As many of our refugee friends belong to the Muslim faith, we applaud opportunities that foster understanding and were pleased to support The Emerald Project’s 3rd annual “Slam the Islamophobia” event on February 15th.
Refugees often risk their lives crossing deserts, jungles, and oceans all in the search for shelter, freedom, or happiness. Yet, even once they’ve reached physical safety, mental mountains emerge that make daily life an uphill climb. At the November 2022 conference for the Utah Chapter of the Society for Public Health Education (USOPHE), presenters Shurooq Al Jewari and Sasha Sloan discussed mental health and inclusion, focusing on immigrants and refugees.
Holidays are an important time to include newcomers. Newcomers are often aching for the traditions and holiday magic they knew at home - and the connections with family and friends. The Garcias* came from a strong family and community that knew generous and giving holiday traditions. I knew, when I met our new friends from Venezuela, the rich bond we would have; this was a kindred spirit family. Even though we have been bad at communicating (Google Translate is such a false hope), it was easy to find connections that helped us love each other.