My youngest daughter was served in India for eleven years. During that period I made four extended trips to India which involved everything from visiting the most impoverished rural villages to visiting the Taj Mahal. Those trips left me with a love for India and its people, but no love for its food.

So, whenever there is a movie based in India my wife and I go to see it. We recently viewed The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The final line in the movie will stick with me forever. In speaking of spending their final years in India one of the characters said, “We are planting trees for which we will never be able to rest in their shade.”

As I left the theater and drove home, my mind was racing with the thought, am I planting trees? For me, this translates to, am I investing my limited time, talents and resources in sustainable enterprises? In things that will grow and last well beyond the ten to fifteen years I have left? Am I willing to make an investment for which I may never see the return? Am I willing to plant the seedling trusting that there will be those whom I do not even know who will be doing the watering, fertilizing and pruning?

Also, what kind of seedling do I plant? Does it take the form of seed money to get a project up and running? Is it time and knowledge and effort to plant the project and to help it take hold? Is it long time service to tend the project as it grows? Is it bringing knowledge and integrity to the project to help deal with its growth problems? All of these are necessary for a project to grow from an idea to a full-blown reality.

For significant change to occur in the third world, both spiritually and socio-economically, there will need to be a lot of trees planted to produce a forest. But every forest begins originally with one seedling. Then the seedling needs to grow and reproduce and so on.

For me, the appeal of the AGORA approach is that it involves me in planting trees which will grow and produce shade and fruit for generations to come for those who need jobs, sustenance and relief from the daily trials of life. For those readers, who like me, are on the last lap of life and want to finish well, I can’t think of a better way to invest my time, energy, abilities and resources than to plant trees even though I’ll probably never see the fruit they produce or rest in their shade when they mature. However, this one thing I know: I’ll have eternity to spend with many who will have eaten of the fruit of life and have rested in the shade of practical compassion produced as a result of what was planted.

So the question I’m posing is, do we want to send fruit baskets or do we want to plant trees?