IDEAS: A blue spruce can teach us the power of kindness, doing the right thing this holiday season

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: This guest opinion column by John J. Stanton appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Sunday, Dec. 20.

When I was a little boy, there lived a kind English teacher named Miss Andes.

She and her mother built a beautiful home after the family’s dairy farm had been taken through eminent domain for the construction of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

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They planted a beautiful blue spruce in the yard.

It grew tall and, like any good blue spruce that’s allowed room to grow, was full and lush.

On snowy nights the streetlamp would form a scrim of light in front of the spruce, which allowed for an accurate measure of exactly how robust the precipitation was and thus how likely we were to maybe, perhaps, fingers crossed, have a snow day.

When I was 10 years old, a home was being built next to the Andes and, for a moment, there was uncertainty about the tree’s future. Because it would encroach on land that was needed for the installation of a sidewalk it would have to be removed.

That wouldn’t do.

Eminent domain had taken their farm and to cut down that beautiful tree would be a bridge too far.

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Petitions were filed and impassioned pleas were made to city council. The whole town supported the effort as we all loved Miss Andes so much.

There was much celebration when, in the end, she, and the tree, prevailed.

Time passed.

I grew up, moved to Colorado and then Germany. I saw many evergreens, but none would ever mean as much to me as the one that stood proudly on Mill Race Drive.

I returned to Ohio in 2002 to look after my father, who was in decline.

Shortly after my return, I learned that my neighbor and dear friend, who always smiled and waved, always brought us peppermint ice cream and a bottle of Blue Nun at Christmas, and treated all creatures with great kindness, was dying.

She passed in November of that year. The tree held on for a few more years, but in time, it too died.

I planted a beautiful 3-foot blue spruce when I bought my home in Dayton and named it Mary Lou Andes. It honors her neighborly kindness, but it also stands for fighting for what is right, fair and equitable. It’s a memorial to goodness.

This year my friend Zac and I wrapped her in blue lights, as blue seems to befit this particular holiday season.

As I “muddle through” I am going to fill my thoughts with all the good things I can find. I am going to spend time with all the people I love, or have loved, those who have helped me define my life, if only in my dreams.

John J. Stanton resides in Dayton and is co-founder of Studio Volant and the creative director at Hot Head Burritos and Rapid Fired Pizza. On weekends, he is the pianist at The Paragon Supper Club. Guest columns are submitted or requested fact-based opinion pieces typically of 300 to 450 words.

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