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Sometimes it’s better to be a Flexible Palm instead of a Mighty Oak

By Andrew Hafer posted Sep 12, 2017 05:05 PM


Palm treesHurricane Irma passed over my home a few hours ago.  We are blessed.  I am eager to do what we can to make sure aid comes to those whom Irma caused devastation, but for most of us, it was a scary, but we will overcome. 

I am fortunate to live on the waters of Tampa Bay.   Overlooking the water usually has a calming effect – but not yesterday.  As the winds were building on Sunday evening, I took a photo of our palm trees getting furiously whipped around.  After that, I went inside, hunkered down for the night, and listened to the winds roar around us.


Oak tree   In the morning, with Irma having passed to the north and the winds down significantly, I took off to visit a      friend in need.  It was shocking how many humongous trees were down blocking my way.  And they all  seemed to be major Oak or other deciduous trees.  But, with so many palm trees dotting the Florida    landscape, I never saw a single one on the ground.  This got me curious, so I did a little research.


I, perhaps, was the only person in the wake of Hurricane Irma googling “the anatomy of a Palm tree.”  But what I found was interesting and answered my curiosity as to why I saw so many Oaks on the ground and all Palms standing.


Unlike an Oak tree whose structure grows in a woody, radial pattern to great circumferences, the Palm trunk grows through grouping lots of smaller bundles of strands of woody material, more like the bunches of wires inside a cable.  Each individual strand is strong, but stronger when gathered in its group, and strongest when the groups assemble to form the trunk.  Whereas, the mighty Oak is significant, but essentially stands rigidly alone.   As I guy who spends his life supporting Communities (of humans), this dendrological metaphor was too good to be true.


We are better together.  We are stronger.  More flexible.  Able to withstand greater adversarial forces.  Each of the communities of Dynamic Communities is a living testament to the Palm tree effect.


To further the metaphor, I watched beautiful examples of community happen before, during, and after the storm.  Neighbors helping neighbors prepare.  Individuals comforting individuals during the scary parts.  And people serving people during the cleanup and recovery.  It is awesome to watch. 


It did not go unnoticed that Hurricane Irma happened to us on September 11th.  That day 16 years ago, although not Mother Nature, a common foe cast the world into a sense of community.  One that should never be forgotten.


Even within natural or man-made disasters, it’s easy to see the beauty.

1 comment



Sep 15, 2017 01:36 PM

Thanks Andy!  Loved this. :)