I Spend My Time on This Earth Doing My Bit. That's All I Can Do
© Copyright 2023 by Beata Stasak
Photo by Hiếu Hoàng at Pexels.
Let me tell you a story...
My godfather was taught beekeeping by his father. He takes his commitment to nature and bees very seriously.
His family's from Protestant stock but he fell in love with my Catholic godmother. Because they decided to marry away from their churches, they were condemned by both. Meanwhile, I was abandoned by my parents and sent to live with my godparents at the beginning of their marriage, because I had nowhere else to go. So I know some of this story personally. and some of it they told me later. I remember living with them in the Communist village, away from the Protestant and Catholic crowds. He was an atomic engineer by trade, working in a nearby nuclear station as a safety inspector. It was his role to ensure that it ran smoothly and safely, not endangering the nearby habitation and villages. Unlike Chernobyl, which was about to happen across the border in the Ukraine. His station stayed safe as he spent his days and nights there, ensuring that it did. He was paid little for his work, as everyone was paid the same under the Communist regime. But he didn’t mind, it was his job. Along with his tree planting mission and his bees, it became his life.
A Catholic priest visited them at their house, saying to my godfather, as the head of the household: “Your family is living in sin. You must pray to God for forgiveness. And all of you need to come to confession and bible reading, if you want to become a good people again. If you donate a quarter of the money from your honey business to my church, you can become a Catholic.” My Godfather listened politely before asking the priest: “My life-long mission on this earth, is to plan local trees so that the bees can survive, as they're dying off. Is your church interested in helping me?” The priest replied: "We don't care about trees. We care about people's souls. My godfather bowed to him: “Then we don't talk the same language, my dear priest. And I can assure you that we're already good people.” He gave the Catholic priest a big jar of honey for the road.
A Protestant preacher came, telling my godfather to come back to the church where he and his family would be welcomed. He could set up a little honey stall next to church, giving half of the profits to the church so that everyone could benefit. In return, the church would help his family to grow in God’s grace. He asked the preacher if he'd help him plant trees for the bees who were dying out. The preacher said that people came first, not bees. My godfather bowed his head to him, acknowledging that they weren't speaking the same language. He assured the preacher that his family was already graceful and that he'd sell the honey by himself. He gave the Protestant preacher a big jar of honey to take with him.
Then a Communist leader came to meet with my godfather in his village, warning him not to fall into the traps of the religious people. He asked him to become a Communist, giving his honey business to the village communal farm cooperation, so that he could share equally with everyone. My godfather asked him if the communal corporation would plant trees so his bees wouldn't die out. The community would then have honey for years to come. The Communist said that trees are for chopping down to make new buildings and new factories and paper for people. My godfather knew better than to argue with a Communist leader. He saluted the commander, saying that he'd keep his small business but give the communal farm cooperation a quarter of the profit. So they let him stay in the village with a house provided for his family, free education for his kids and work for his wife. She was an accountant for the communal farm corporation.
The Communist leader saluted back, replying: “We'll let you keep your small honey business. I remember that your father was a war hero whose plane was shot down while fighting our German enemy. But we'll be watching you closely.“ He gave the commander a big jar of honey.
My godfather saluted back and said: “I've no intention of spreading ideologies of any religious or political affiliations. All I want to do is plant trees for my bees.”
And that was what he did, all of his life. He worked as an atomic safety inspector during the day and made honey and planted trees during the night or early morning. He found out later that the Communist village commander had kept the quarter of his profit in his own pocket, instead of sharing it with the communal cooperation. He mused that the Communists were easily corrupted like any religious or political group and that this would prove to be their own downfall.
His prediction was right. In a decade's time, when I was barely twenty years old, the Communist regime in my country toppled. In the ensuing decades, when my country became lost as they replaced hard core Communism with capitalism, where money rules and nothing else matters, my godfather shone as a beacon for all of us. It was his decision to stay a free person, making up his own mind, no matter what was happening around him. It was one lesson that he taught me that in those few years when I grew up in their household.
He had to make compromises but he set up a goal in life to save nature and bees. He realised very early that none of groups mentioned above were going to assist him. They had their own agendas to follow. So he kept buying seedlings and planting trees on communal land or in the new private estates that were beginning to appear in the new capitalist regime.
My godfather nearly died when a virus attacked his brain. He was clinically near death and they thought he was finished. But he woke up, saying: "I can't go yet. I have to save the bees." When we talked about what he'd seen, he said that he'd seen his bees after he'd thought that he'd gone. He told me: "It's our brain that makes us see what we want to see in the last images, when we leave this world. Like when a computer is switched off, our energy goes back to the universe to be used again in the greater scheme of things."
My godfather had been buying trees with his own money from the age of twenty, but after his near death experience at the age of forty, he made it his own quiet mission to return to the earth that which people of all religion and beliefs had taken from it, using and wasting and taking it for granted. He became a free man on his own mission, doing what's right in whatever religious or political surrounding he was subjected to.
He suffered from severe headaches after his illness. His memory deteriorated and he lost his job. Aged forty, he worked as a security guard in the nuclear station that he'd managed before. The rest of his time he was spent with his bees and planting trees, like before.
He told me once, that his illness had happened to him for a reason. He'd now more time to spend with his bees and plant trees. People in the nuclear station which he'd managed before, saluted him still, even though he was now at the bottom of the social ladder. The new manager who'd replaced him, bowed to him, calling: "Mr. Beekeeper, the man who wants to save the bees!"
I saw my godfather this year when I visited my home country. Now in his late seventies, he's still planting trees anywhere he can, even in private gardens if the owners promise to let them grow.
He chuckled when he told me this news. After the fall of Communism, the Catholic priest and the Protestant preacher both visited him again as he was planting trees on private land near his old shack. The Catholic priest told him that their status had now been restored and that If he'd stuck with them in previous Communist times, they would have rewarded him. They were in power now but he'd get nothing from them, only help from the new government, possibly. He stood up to look at his trees, saying: “I ALREADY HAVE EVERYTHING!” They looked at him and shook their heads: “You're mad! This land belongs to our new Catholic Party leader and he's going to build a new golf course here!” He looked at them again to say: “YOU are truly mad! Your unnatural golf courses are graveyards for bees and trees and nature. They take so much of our precious water for nothing! Just for the pleasure of chasing a plastic ball around with a plastic club, and sitting in your plastic car! Where is your God in all of this?”
My godfather sighed, continuing to plant trees: “When I plant these trees I don't have headaches. I don't feel my age.”
My godfather's tall and lanky. He eats very humble produce from his own garden, behind his old shack. He avoids plastic where he can and gets rid of his own waste. He reuses paper because his beloved trees are chopped down to make it.
HE'S HIS OWN MAN AND HE HAS HIS OWN MISSION. He thinks very little of himself and will tell you: "I'm just a man. I don't have time to question if God's there or not. I don't have the time. I told this to the Communists in the previous regime, to question if sharing equally is the best for people. I don't have the time. I told this to the capitalists in today's regime, whether making big bucks is the solution to all of our problems.
I spend my time on this earth just doing my bit. That's all I can do.