50th Anniversary Fun Fact: A Tree Grows in Naples

July 5th, 2017

One in a series of articles focusing on the history of David Lawrence Center, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2018.

If you’ve visited David Lawrence Center, you’ve no doubt seen the huge banyan tree in the front parking lot. You can’t miss it. Enormous and sprawling, the banyan is, in many ways, the physical and spiritual centerpiece of the facility.

Physical, because of its can’t-miss placement. But spiritual too, in a way, because the old tree, with its cooling shade and the inviting embrace of its branches, seems to say, “Come, lay your burdens down, right here at my feet.”

And how many “feet” there are! A banyan tree grows outward as much as upward. As its limbs reach out in all directions, new roots grow downward from the limbs until they touch the ground, digging into the dirt to form new “trunks” all around, each holding up the vast limbs above.

The DLC banyan was planted in the late 1980s. At about the same time, DLC included a residential program for children aged 6-17, housed in a building called the Banyan Pavilion. When they graduated, each was given a coin — with a picture of a banyan tree on one side, and the Serenity Prayer on the other:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

The banyan was planted by a master gardener who also taught the children how to grow things, a hands-on illustration for seeing how something could come from almost nothing, and, in time and with cultivation, could develop into something beautiful. The gardener taught the children how the new roots holding up the limbs were like friends, family, and community holding one another up in troubling times.

DLC’s landmark tree was almost lost in 2004, when Hurricane Charley swept through and caused great damage. Some suggested removing the tree altogether, but others voted to keep it, care for it, and nurture it back to health and wellness — an apt metaphor for what happens at David Lawrence Center every day.

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