“Babushka Galushka encourages Ruby to be an aware hare, treating everyone’s feelings, as well as her own, with great care…She also showed Ruby how to talk with all animals, plants and trees and to respect every living thing’s important place on this earth.” Kate Knapp Ruby Red Shoes.

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This week, the tree man (whose last name is Moss) came to take down the trees at the front of our house, which was once my grandma’s house.

In her usual fashion, my grandma impulsively planted a weeping fig, which was bursting from its pot, in her front garden. The weeping fig continued to burst, and became a forest as high as the sky, obscuring what is now our house, our letter box and our lawn. The early-morning tidy-town walkers tut tutted the branches and berries that littered the tidy road of our tidy town.

Our forest served the function of obscuring our house from the tidy-town walkers, but other than littering the tidy road, it also made our house very cold in winter, and made solar-panels on the roof unviable. Mr Moss told us that if we left Weeping Fig much longer, it would be forever unmanageable, so he advised taking action.

And so we did. Or so Mr Moss did. And he brought along the wood chipper, which came with a man called Noel. Noel wore a hard hat and pushed the fallen branches into the chipper, which munched them up and spat chips out into a trailer.

Elka pressed her nose against the glass of the window. Fascinated. What are they doing? she asked.

We made leave of the tree feller (Mr Moss) and Noel so no little children would be in the way of the large and dangerous task. On our drive to Mum’s, Elka talked incessantly about the Chimp and the trees, and how the Chimp ate the trees and that the Chimp was very very scary, but he was also nice. And he ate the trees. And he waved to us as we were going to our car. And he was at our house, and Daddy was looking after him, and was going to give him dinner and put him to bed. (Etc.)

When we returned later that afternoon, Elka stared in amazement. But what happened to our trees?

The Chimp ate them, I said. Remember?

But I don’t want the Chimp to eat our trees! I am scared of the Chimp! I am sad bout the trees! I want our trees!

I realised, too, that I was sad about the trees. Our front lawn had a big hole in it, where Weeping Fig once was, and it was sad seeing the Chimp gobble them up. Those trees had done so much work to grow as big as they did, and now we were paying someone to destroy them. It was sad.

I thought about Elka, and her compassion for the trees. It is amazing how young compassion is learnt. Or maybe it’s always there, inherent in our very beings. Elka has often shown compassion – to her friends, her Mummy, her Daddy…Where does it hurt? she frequently asks, I will kiss it better. Or Eve is sad. I will kiss her, make her feel better.

After Elka was in bed that night, Gregor and I talked about her fascination with Mr Moss (the tree feller) and the Chimp. All day, I thought the machine was the Chimp, but it turned out Noel was the Chimp. And her fondness for the Chimp has continued into the week. He has featured in many conversations since. As have our poor, fallen, chipped trees.

How do you teach compassion to your children? Or is it just there?

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