One of my mentors in the program gave me a beautiful gift one day in the form of a question. Since then it has evolved into one of my favorite metaphors, and I would like to share it with you. He said something like, “Shurone, look at that tree. What do you think about it?” Such a simple question couldn’t possibly have a simple motive attached to it, so I looked at the slightly mangled half-dead tree, immediately covered up my judgment, and said, “it’s perfect!” to which he replied, “exactly”. This brief discussion was followed by another half hour of hiking in silence, which gave me time to think about why the tree might be perfect and about why the question had been asked. I began to think about the tree and how it started out as a tiny seed, in that exact place in the forest, and how that place had shaped the trees life. Every storm, every bit of sunlight had impacted the tree based on its placement in the forest. The tree’s embattled appearance became something new when I considered all that it had endured. Then I began to consider the trees around the one in question. They too were perfect, having been created by a power that is greater than myself, and beyond my comprehension. Products of their own specific beginnings in the forest as well, I began to understand that like the trees in the forest, we as human beings are also perfect. Comprised of the same exact elements as every other living thing on this planet. We forget this fact when we buy into the definitions and expectations surrounding us as we grow and define truth based on our experiences. I, like most of us, had traumatic experiences with adults as a child, which led me to believe that I couldn’t trust anyone. That belief made me extremely independent, and I hid myself away from society, eventually drinking morning until night, everyday justifying my behavior with yet another belief, that I was broken, that I deserved to drink every day because of how I perceived reality. Up another thousand feet or so surrounded by aspens, I remembered learning that they are all really one tree connected underground by a single root system. I believe that humans are also connected, and that we are stronger together, like a forest comprised of human lives supporting each other, and I am very grateful that I am no longer a mangled tree standing alone without a grove of people surrounding me and lifting me up!