When Ritchie, Jessica and I set out for Guatemala last year we knew that we were undertaking some things we’d never done before and there was a good chance we were going to make mistakes as we immersed ourselves in experiences with new places, cultures and people. We committed that instead of getting frustrated when something didn’t quite go the way we planned we’d remind each other to “Live and Learn.” The strategy worked well for us and sometimes the mistakes were funny like when I told our local guide I needed to take a griddle (plancha) instead of a boat (barco). Other times they were more serious like when a flight got cancelled and we didn’t know that the large-group-tour-guide was running to the reservation counter because when you’re near the end of the line you wait for the shuttle for an additional hour AND get the last available hotel room on the outskirts of the city AND eat your “free” dinner with your six year old asleep in your lap around 10:30 pm. Nevertheless the practice of saying “live and learn” at each misstep helped us to laugh and enjoy our adventure. Over the past year we’ve continued to use this mantra in our home, work and travels and it’s lightened things up nearly every time. So next time you goof something up, just be curious about what you could learn from the experience. It makes a world of difference.
Proportioned growth is a natural practice. Grass seeks to keep a balance between root and blade. The roots pull nourishment from the earth and the blade absorbs energy from the sun and both elements combine to support growth. (This is why keeping grass at a consistent height helps it to flourish. It can grow and thicken without spending it’s energy trying to constantly re-calibrate the root and blade balance). Life is like that. It is wise to balance our external outward endeavors with our nourishing self-care and vice versa. In a time when it’s relatively easy to grow outward at extraordinary rates, it’s important to focus on our own root systems, the things that nourish and sustain our bodies, minds and spirits. This type of balanced growth is rich and sustainable.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at cotton, but like any fruitful creation, it’s seeds are carefully housed inside it. With the fluff peeled back you can see the seed just waiting for the protective seasonal covering to fade away so it can grow. Sometimes our personal protective coverings are hard to give up but it’s essential to the process of growth. The decay of one gives rise to the other. So the next time one of your protective walls comes down (in mind, experience or emotion) look for what is uncovered and thus able to grow. Then nurture that thing by your thoughts and actions with a curiosity toward what fruit will come of it.
Under the shadow of the tree from which it was born, an acorn will take root and begin to grow. It has its own unique way of knowing what it will take to become an oak tree. Much like children, who hold within themselves the secrets to their own future, and ours, for that matter, the acorn will take what it can from its surroundings and use those resources to overcome obstacles and slowly and steadily reach upward.
“To stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself–that is the first duty of the educator [or parent, friend, aunt],” so said Maria Montessori. It is so easy to lose sight of the vast intelligence housed in the tiny people we call children. So often we try to replace it with our own or someone else’s. May we look at a child today with the same awe as a seedling; both are engaged in a great work. It’s a gift to be able to provide a bit of shelter and watch that work unfold.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” There are many things I do not know. I do know that in a few weeks a cold and scared human fleeing to the mountains from Syria will be handed a sleeping bag. And when that human lays down at night on the hard earth under a blanket of brilliant stars and snuggles up in that sleeping bag she will feel something slightly rough on the inside lining near the zipper. And when she wakes up in the morning and the sun illuminates the world she will see the simple stitching of a seven year old in the shape of a heart. And that one action, that one acorn, I do not know what forests will grow from it but I have faith that it can be the beginning of something beautiful on both sides of the world.
As I gardened at my local LDS temple this morning, I found this tiny sprouting acorn amidst an array of other acorns who had yet to take the leap from acorn to sprout. Wanting to show it to Jessica, I kept it moist and brought it home. Acorns serve as seasonal symbols of nature’s steady reminder that small things proceed very large things. A timely application for that wisdom is the awareness that big changes grow from small decisions. So today, make it a point to do something good. Don’t wait until tomorrow, don’t talk yourself out of it. Just do something good today because you never know what may stem from your actions.