When I was a little boy, just about 10 or 11, we visited my great-aunt and great-uncle. In the yard beside their home stood a towering pecan tree. Every summer pecans would fall off the tree and sprout, producing a mini-forest of several dozen small saplings. On the last day of our visit that summer, we carefully dug up one of the tiny trees, placed it gently in the trunk of our car, and took it home. We planted it in the corner of our yard. And we waited.
I remember counting up the number of years that would pass before the tree produced any pecans, and realizing that if all went well, it just might make the first crop the summer before I left for college. It seemed like an eternity.
The years passed, and the tree quickly outgrew me. Seasons came and went, and the tree kept growing. I left for college, and the tree was just beginning to produce. Today, it stands tall, shading much of the yard. It will continue to grow and provide shade and beauty for decades, probably long after I am gone.
We planted many different things in the hard, unforgiving West Texas soil. The flowers we planted bloomed quickly, but fall brought their beauty to an end. The tomatoes and peppers we planted were good to eat, but the garden spot is long since covered by a storage shed. We planted those things for ourselves, but in a sense, we planted the tree for someone else. Because even though we get to enjoy its shade now, it is still just a baby, and will be growing and reaching skyward for years and years to come.
The temptation is to plant tomatoes, because we soon can eat the fruit of our labor. The temptation is to plant flowers, because we soon can smell their sweet aroma. But the true challenge in life is to plant trees, and not just any trees, but big, slow-growing, long-living trees, because it is those trees which benefit countless multitudes.
Each day, you choose how you will invest yourself. Your hours are spent on many pressing things which must be done today, immediately, RIGHT NOW, without delay. Your days feel full to overflowing. But look….carefully…. cautiously…..at the frayed edges of each unraveling day are a few moments which you can choose how to use. They are easily spent, so very easily squandered on a fruitless desires or painless pastimes. These moments must be gathered up, treasured for the treasure they are, and carefully applied to the pursuits which will make a lasting difference a year from now….or a decade…or a century.
Pursuits like creating a future which most dare not even imagine for fear it will intrude on their comfortable present.
Many will plant flowers. Some tomatoes. The rewards are present and plentiful and personal.
Plant trees instead. The results can be far-reaching and eternal.