Last April, my sister sent me this brief article in the Times about the horsechestnut tree which resides behind the annex where Anne Frank, her family, the van Pels family and Dr. Pfeffer hid from the Nazis. The Anne Frank Center in New York City, literally three blocks from my office, was preparing to award ten horsechestnut saplings - progeny from the very tree Anne Frank gazed upon - to various institutions in the United States.
Anne Frank's story and diary resonated strongly with me as a young person, and when I saw a, well, a branch between plants and her story, I was motivated to reach out to the Anne Frank Center and volunteer any services they may need.
Using experience I acquired from writing and reviewing RFPs for the City Planning Department and the Wildlife Conservation Society, I worked with Yvonne Simons and other staff at the Center in preparing a Request for Proposals that would be sent to institutions interested in obtaining a tree. I also was a member of the committee that reviewed the proposals and ultimately selected the institutions which will receive the saplings.
You can read an article in today's New York Times about the selected institutions here.
All of the proposals were touching and selection was difficult. Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas will receive a tree, as will the Southern Cayuga Central School District in upstate New York. The thought that schoolchildren -- Anne's would-be peers -- will care for these trees is profoundly moving to me. Boston will receive a tree because a little girl heard about the RFP and wrote a letter to the mayor. It's another story about how a young person is capable of making a meaningful contribution to his or her society, despite their youth, inexperience or in Anne's case, the bigotry or hatred of their times.
And of course, the fact that these trees are revered and sought-after demonstrates how important nature is to us, emotionally. Perhaps Anne puts it best:
“From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.” She adds, “When I looked outside right into the depth of nature and God...then I was happy, really happy.”