With today being National Tree Day and tomorrow being Paragon’s 24th Birthday, it is a great time to share a tree story about Sensei Cameron, the founder of Paragon.
In August 2019, I travelled to Kenya on a Safari with my wife, Michelle. It was just four months since Sensei Cameron died. Cameron would have loved to have been there. The place we were camping was replanting the trees the elephants had stripped in their quest for food. The camp staff’s approach was simple; they fenced off some damaged areas and replanted the native trees. Then, when the trees matured, they pulled down the fences and moved on to the next place to replant.
One of the rangers, Benedict, asked me if I’d like to join them on a planting expedition and sponsor their program to plant trees, so with Cam’s voice in my head, I instantly said yes!
We walked from the camp past a few giraffes; they seemed not fussed that we were walking past. Finally, we got to an area where the trees thinned out, and I saw several seedlings in the ground. Benedict handed me a seedling and a small shovel, and I dug a small hole. Michelle then helped me with another one. After we were finished, Benedict asked me if I’d like to put my name next to the tree. Instead, I told him the story of my brother and his passion for trees. I left a small stone with the words ‘In loving memory of Cameron Gill’ next to one seedling and ‘Be Kind. Plant Trees’ next to the other.
Fast forward three years to today, and the Safari camp team got back in touch with me on the progress of the two seedlings. As you can see in the pictures, they are growing and are 2 of many they have planted since.
Why am I telling you this story? Because Sensei Cameron had a passion for trees. This started at an early age. He used to love climbing trees. He liked the feeling of being up high. He could see things better from up there. He felt on top of the world.
He taught me how to climb. He was so good at it! I used to wonder why he was never afraid of being up high, climbing up to the tops of trees and the tops of play equipment, like he was flying around up there. Flying isn’t the hard part, he would say later in life. Landing is the hard part. But he never seemed to have a problem with the landing, except for one time.
We were in Queensland on holiday with our parents. Cameron was up to his usual antics of climbing trees and the play equipment, but this time he slipped. He fell to the ground and landed on his back with a thud.
I saw him fall; being about five years old, I had no idea what to do. I looked at him, and he seemed calm but hurt.
He looked at me and, in a very winded voice, half mouthed and half said, “Get Mum.”
I started running towards our hotel. I didn’t think; I just ran and did what my brother told me. Although, it didn’t go quite to plan. I ran to our hotel. It was one of those with a security gate at the entrance and an intercom.
What apartment number are we staying at?
I couldn’t remember. Hrmmm, how can I find out? I know! I’ll ask Cameron!
I ran all the way back to the playground, where Cameron was still lying on the ground. He looked up at me, expecting to see Mum over my shoulder. “What apartment are we staying at?”
He just smiled and, still winded, said, “20”.
“Oh,” I said, and I ran off again to get mum.
Cameron was my kind, caring and calm brother. He knew getting angry at me for forgetting our apartment number wasn’t the answer. Kindness was his answer.
As he got older, he said that kindness and tree planting is the answer to almost every question. So that is why, today, I ask you to be kind on National Tree Day and go out and plant a tree. It doesn’t need to be a big tree. If you don’t have space to plant a tree, you can always try a clipping from a herb plant on your kitchen window sill.
During Cameron’s celebration, we passed on one of his requests that everyone takes a seedling home after the service and plant it. We’d love to see updates or hear stories of how your Cameron seedling is going.