No, No…You Don’t Understand!
By Dan Mays
High school is a seminal event in any adolescent’s life. Some will endlessly wax on and on about it being the zenith of their life; never quite wanting to let go of “the glory years.” For others, it was a most painful period; trying to find a way to merely fit in and hopefully survive. While sweeping statements like these are sprinkled with truth, the reality, unfiltered through the cleansing of years, belies the fact that this segment of time is a mixture of both pain and pleasure. During this slice of life, learning is our occupation. However, our youthful occupation encompassed far more than learning the classic four “R’s “. Life-skill knowledge is often garnered during the hours and days when classroom bells were not ringing.
Confusion and feelings of inadequacy abounded. While each of us proffered the posture of “knowing it all”’, we—and especially our parents—actually knew better. With now, more than a little gray hair showing and having nurtured a couple kids of my own into adulthood, I realize our know-it-all attitude was just another opportunity to learn. Sometimes the lessons came easily. Sometimes the lessons were fraught with confrontation; which unwittingly became a dual lesson, requiring us to also hone social skills.
High school forced us to read. Although I confess that I have yet to acquire any desire to read fiction, my exposure to the printed word was not a total loss. Consistently through, and long past high school, I have nurtured a love of reading concise, insightful quotations. In many ways, I have always considered pithy quotations to be short courses in life.
Borrowing one of those favorite quotes: ‘”An intelligent man learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Regrettably, youthful zeal and indiscretion set me upon a long course of poor decisions. I can assure anyone of the wisdom contained within the above proverb. I have (unfortunately) proven it time and again in the ‘College of Hard Knocks’. Most gratefully, a few nuggets of wisdom were collected over the years by simply listening and remembering. One of my most cherished nuggets of wisdom came in this manner and from a most unexpected source.
Of course, high school was a time frame complicated by new hormones coursing through our veins. Neither gender fully understood what was going on. However, this newfound chemical imbalance sent both sexes headlong onto an unavoidable collision course. These boy/girl interactions were filled with both delight and unimaginable pain. While each of us tried (mostly in vain) to make sense of the opposite sex, what we little realized was that we were fully engaged in a primordial journey assisting each other to become the person we are today.
It has been some 40 years since I left the lessons and hallowed halls of high school behind me. Many of those lessons have since been abandoned as frivolous, youthful misinterpretations. Most things learned have since been tempered with the wisdom of time. They have become enhanced with an abiding, broader perspective. Fewer still are the lessons that have stood like an oak tree, stalwartly surviving the test of time.
Life occasionally blesses us with a few lessons that serve as shining beacons yielding steadfast direction throughout our lives. I was fortunate to garner one of these from a high school sweetheart many years ago. Even before my high school matriculations were completed, she and I began to follow separate paths. Strangely enough, one of the most enduring lessons I learned from her was about trees.
Although seemingly insignificant at the time, she told me a family story about her grandmother. Her grandmother was one of those unique individuals in life who carefully ponder their actions. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or choose a separate path than that normally taken by the crowd. More importantly, she typically led by example rather than by lecture. However, when she spoke, it was a pretty good idea to pay attention.
The story goes that Grandma (a mature lady of some years at the time) decided that she needed a new maple tree in her front yard. Indeed, a new maple sapling was planted in her front yard. In short order, all the neighbors took notice and found a golden opportunity to offer a good ‘ribbing’. More than once, Grandmother had to suffer through an oft-heard statement from yet another neighbor: “Why in the world would you plant such a little tree? Ha, Ha …That thing is so small that you will never live long enough to ever enjoy even a lick of shade from it! Ha, Ha, Ha …”
With an elegant demeanor learned through the wisdom of years, Grandmother let each neighbor take their turn at poking a little fun. She would just smile. And when they were done, she offered these priceless words that I remember being told so well all these years later. “No, No … You don’t understand! The fun of planting a tree is in watching it grow.”
I know that she did, in fact, get to enjoy watching her little tree grow. Perhaps every bit as importantly, the long-lasting wisdom in her words assisted my growth as well. Over all these many years, I have planted numerous trees. And yes, I have taken enormous delight in watching each of them grow. As many times as I have seen it, I am always simply amazed at how much each of them have grown. Sounding like an old man, I catch myself saying, “Well, I can remember back when I planted that thing and it was only…”
Trees are important to us in so many ways. They provide lumber and more than a few jobs. Certainly, we all recognize the many-faceted roles trees play in the grand scope of environmental concerns. Trees additionally add comfort, beauty and esthetic value to our home landscapes. Very tangible dollars are realized for those trees when we eventually put that home on the market. However, in spite of the all the valuable assets that trees provide, I always fondly remember: “The fun of planting a tree is in watching it grow.”