Growing Tomorrow

David Glasgow is passionate about trees. Really, really passionate. When he starts listing the benefits that trees bring to a community, his fervor is unmistakable.

He can work in interesting facts about them — like 60 percent of rain that hits a tree’s leaves in the first hour is absorbed before it ever hits the ground — scattered with various quotes while explaining how trees make everything better.

By planting trees you create shade, he explains. Shade makes the area more temperate, which leads to more people being outside more frequently, which leads to stronger community connection and less crime. Trees filter out air pollution and ground pollution, making the environment cleaner. Greener, stronger neighborhoods? It all starts with the tree.

He is fond of the old Greek proverb, “A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.” For Glasgow, planting a tree is not the end of a long and sometimes tedious process of gathering all the necessary surveys, permits, grants and volunteers to place a tree in the ground.

That is the beginning. The magic happens later, slowly, as the tree begins to grow into its space and work its alchemy on the surroundings. For him, the planting of a tree is a vote in the future of the community where its roots are nestled.

Perhaps it is not surprising he also coaches the Grizzlies rugby team. When he discovered rugby, he had never participated in any type of organized team sport. “I was timid, mainly because I wasn’t sure what I — what my body — was capable of,” Glasgow said. “As I learned more and got more into the sport, I found that I was more confident not just on the field, but in almost every other part of my life as well.”

Now, volunteering as the head coach of the Grizzlies rugby team, he helps other gay men grow into confident and successful players and people. “You can just see them change from those first timid times that they come out to practice, to how they become more comfortable in themselves and with others,” he said, in a tone similar to when he talks about the importance of trees.

If it sounds like a lot of time spent volunteering, it is. In 2011, between planting trees, coaching rugby and other projects throughout the year, David donated more than 500 hours of his time. When asked about how he got into volunteering, he wryly quotes Lily Tomlin, “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”

His commitment to volunteering was recently honored by President Barack Obama, who bestowed upon Glasgow “The President’s Volunteer Service Award.” The signed letter reads in part, “Your volunteer service demonstrates the kind of commitment to your community that moves America a step closer to its great promise. Thank you for your devotion to service and for doing all you can to shape a better tomorrow for our great Nation.”

He is quick to point out he couldn’t do what he does without the help of all the other volunteers who work with him throughout all of his various projects. For him, maturing has meant letting others show what they can do and how they accomplish things, rather than insisting it be done “his way.”

Glasgow also encourages others to volunteer. “You can pay more in taxes and let someone else do it, or you can roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Anything you do in the community matters. Whether it’s picking up that piece of trash and putting it in the trash can, or going to the nursing home to entertain, or building a playground, whatever you do. It all matters.”

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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