Radical Joy Revealed
December 24, 2014

Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places. We hope you'll enjoy these doorways into places that are both familiar and surprising, and we welcome your suggestions, stories, and photos. Click here to subscribe.

How an Ugly Christmas Tree
Got Loved to Beauty 

Scrawny town Christmas tree
The Reading, Pennsylvania Christmas tree, loved back to beauty.
Photo by Ben Allen/WITF
Reading, Pennsylvania is one of the poorest cities in the United States. Unemployment is high, fewer than 9% of people have a college education, and many of the local factories that once supplied jobs have shut down.


So when a sparse and shabby 50-foot Christmas tree went up in the middle of the downtown area this year, many residents saw it as further proof that Reading didn't count for much. "We're the underdog city, and it's the underdog tree," said one resident. Some people wanted to turn the tree into mulch.


But gradually, something shifted. Instead of scrapping the tree, the people of Reading began to celebrate it. The local paper, the Eagle sponsored a contest for school children to write a letter to the tree. On the night of the tree-lighting ceremony, the town turned out in force. An anchorman from the local TV station read from the book, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is also the story of a decrepit, carefully tended tree. There were ice sculptures on view, and stuffed animals were awarded to winners of the letters contest. One winner was Celeste Vega, whose letter said, in part:


Dear Christmas Tree, I have something very important to say to you. What I have to say is that you are beautiful and I appreciate you. It makes me want to cry when people say things like that is ugly or not even a homeless squirrel would live in that tree..... What if there were no Christmas tree and you were the only one..... Sometimes I think that if you could hear them and you knew, would they still insult you? If you ask me, you are the one and only tree this city needs.


As the people of Reading looked up at the luminous branches of this, their most unforgettable tree, it is likely that every single one of them agreed with her.


May this story inspire you during this winter holiday season and in every season to bring attention, love, and beauty to wounded places. Because such acts of giving have the power to transform not only the place but also the human heart.



To discover other stories of inspiring people, stories, photos, and ideas, subscribe to Radical Joy Revealed.
See How the World Made Beauty
for the Earth

On June 20 people around the world will go to wounded places to share their stories of what the places mean to them, spend time getting to know the places as they are now, and make a simple act of beauty there: a bird created out of materials found on site. Join the world in making beauty for the Earth for the 6th annual Global Earth Exchange.

To see the photos of the 2014 Global Earth Exchange, visit our website. To read the stories click on the little "pins" on our world map.
Radical Joy for Hard Times is a global community dedicated to finding and making beauty in wounded places. Reconnecting with these places, sharing our stories of loss and despair, and making acts of beauty there, we transform the land, reconnect people and the places that nourish them, and empower ourselves to make a difference in the way we live on Earth.
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2014 Radical Joy for Hard Times | | trebbe@radicaljoyforhardtimes.org |