On this third anniversary of my father’s death, one of his legacies is green and growing in India, a region of the world he never visited or expressed much interest in.
Three years ago, this land, owned by a charity, was a near desert. The cost of a bore well to irrigate the land was far beyond their budget. The portion of Dad’s charitable trust that I was appointed to disburse provided the bore well and hundreds of orange trees, a major cash crop in the region. The trees will bear fruit in 2011. The profits will be turned into microloans for impoverished women so they can start little businesses and support their families.
This project serves my interests more than his, for his charities of choice were the Salvation Army and Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky. The Salvation Army assisted him when he was parted from his ship in the Philippines during World War II. “The Red Cross gave me a toothbrush, and the Salvation Army gave me a place to sleep and money to tide me over until I caught up with my ship,” he said.
His lifelong interest in birds became a mission when, in his 70s, he visited a struggling charity that rehabilitates birds of prey. He became the charity’s godfather, raising funds and awareness, giving money for flight cages and vet bills, providing accounting advice and services, and convincing a dealer to donate a badly needed van.
Being such an advocate for people causes, I never quite understood why in his Age of Wisdom he put more time and resources in rehabilitating raptors. “Aren’t people more important than buzzards?” I asked.
He gave me That Look, the look that shot the question back to me. The answer was obvious: his life, his time, his money, his business.
When I question my decision to invest his money in oranges and people, I remember That Look and know he would agree that it was my decision and my business.
I hope the variety of birds nesting in this reclaimed land compensates for the oranges. Dad’s favorite fruit was not oranges, it was grapefruit.