The story is told of the massive oak beams in the ceiling of College Hall at New College, Oxford. New College was founded in 1379 and the dining hall was built shortly thereafter.
While oak is a durable wood, sooner or later it is likely to need repair. And so it was, about 100 years ago, five hundred years after its construction, that the age-old beams were found to be “beetly”.
The problem was, where would they find replacement beams to match the mammoth beams that needed to be removed?
Oxford had an ancient tradition of keeping on staff a College Forester who, as you might imagine, was responsible for managing the university’s forests. So the Forester was called in and queried as to where they might find lumber appropriate for this historic task.
No problem, he replied. When the original carpenters built the hall, they also planted oak trees. The tradition of this planting and the place of this congregation of oak had been passed on through the centuries from Forester to Forester. He would show them where they would find their oak.
Whether this story is true is hardly the point.
The lesson it teaches is true regardless. Just as we build today with gifts our ancestors planted or left for us yesterday, so we must plant or leave gifts that our children will build with tomorrow.
As we eat today from fruit trees planted years ago, so we must plant today so we and our children can eat tomorrow.