We draw our inspiration from the personality and work of Elzéard Bouffier, a character created by French novelist Jean Giono in his novella The Man Who Planted Trees. This provincial shepherd revitalised his region between 1913 and 1947 by planting trees. The beautiful forest he grows allows the surrounding villages to welcome new inhabitants in a region threatened by severe population decline. For Elzéard, it was a long-winded endeavour marked by patience, solitude, self-sacrifice and generosity.

We continually feel inspired after reading this short story, which gives us lessons on how to be discerning in our work. As recruiters, it teaches us about our work with living beings; as engaged men and women, it teaches us about the positive action humans can have on their environment.

In order for the character of a human being to reveal truly exceptional qualities, we must have the good fortune of observing its action over many years. If this action is devoid of all selfishness, if its overarching idea is one of unqualified generosity, if we are absolutely certain that it has not sought recompense anywhere, and, moreover, if it has left visible marks on the world, then we are unquestionably dealing with an unforgettable character.