Cole's grandpa caught Cole hiding behind a bush. "You aren't supposed to be up here, little man," He said sternly.
"Why do you leave before anyone wakes up?" Cole's voice wavered. "Where are you going?"
His grandpa took a slow, discerning breath, then said,"Alright, come on." At the top of the hill he put his bag down and knelt at the base of a sapling tree that stood no taller than he.
"Is this tree a baby?" Cole asked.
"It's about 5 years old."
"That's how old I am."
His grandpa nodded as he pulled things out of his pack. "It's exactly as old as you are." Together they carefully dug up weeds, watered it, and inspected it for disease.
He was looking at Cole when he had an idea. "Do you want to pray for the tree with me?"
"Okay," Cole replied.
"Put your hand on the tree." After Cole did it his grandpa put his hand on Cole's shoulder and prayed, "May the roots of this little one go deep, growing slow and steady even if no one else can see it but You, Lord. May he grow into an oak of righteousness so that someday his branches will give countless people peace in his shade."
Cole listened for his grandpa to wake up every morning and they did the same thing. Even long after the tree could hold its own they kept going. Cole felt like the quiet time with his grandpa watered Cole's soul.
They held his grandpa's funeral 60 years later, under that same big oak tree, now the largest thing on the hillside. Most of the people there were Cole's kids and grandkids and they all rested in the tree's shade.
At one point, Cole's uncle stood up to talk. He looked directly at Cole and spoke loud enough for all to hear. "As we sit under this big tree today, Cole, it reminds me of the day we baptized you. Of course you were too young to remember it but your grandpa whispered a prayer over you. He said something like, "Make this one into an oak of righteousness," His uncle struggled to remember the phrasing, "so that people will find peace in his shade.' Or something like that. He poured himself into you, Cole, and you have become that man."
Cole bit his lip and looked down. He knew the exact words of the prayer. He had heard it a thousand times. He just hadn't known it was for him.
Raw Spoon, 5-19-19