Charity begins at trees?

Presented with bad news, we all rush around doing. A friend is diagnosed with a terrible illness: ‘What can I do?’ is the first (and usually useless) response. In the face of illness, or the four horsemen of the apocalypse — conquest, war, famine and death, riding their pale horses through the world — the natural urge is to try and do: active, not passive.

Last month in New Zealand, this month in Japan — or in Haiti, or the Congo, or or or. The four horseman ride everywhere, and it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed. In the short term, the Red Cross, or Medecins san Frontieres is probably the way to go: emergency relief appears to be essential at the moment.

But in addition, cherry-blossom time is almost at hand in Japan. Friends tell me that, however much the heart lifts at the sight of blossom in the UK, the sheer magnitude of the cherry blossom flowering in Japan is unimaginable in its scale and beauty. I can’t think that it’s going to mean much to anyone this year. But even more, in the next decade and after, reminders of the tsunami and earthquake will be visible every spring in the great gaping holes left by absent trees. So in the longer term, GoodGifts offer a wonderfully symbolic action: £12 will provide and replant a single cherry tree; five for £60 — a symbol of hope, of a rebuilt future.

Sorry, a preachy blog today, but the pale riders don’t leave a lot of space for jokes. Normal service resumes tomorrow…

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