Joanne and I were in Ohio over the weekend, reminiscing with family, and I was told them this story about our Dad – and about life.
About 4 years ago I had the opportunity to meet (Apple) Dan Miller, an old Amish neighbor of my Dad. He told me that years ago Dad had complained to him that his apple trees looked beautiful but weren’t producing any apples. Known far and wide for his apples, “Apple Dan” told my Dad to go home, grab a hammer and give his trees a severe beating around the trunk. He said they needed to have something wake them up – that life had been too easy and they needed a challenge to come alive. While this seemed counter to the careful fertilizing, watering and nurturing my Dad had been giving his prized trees, he trusted the wisdom of his Amish neighbor.
The next year the trees produced so heavily that Dad saw branches breaking under the weight of the massive number of apples. With a little research I now find that this is not an uncommon approach. Want more crepe myrtle blooms? Pull branches down almost to the breaking point, then let them snap back into place. I’ve heard a gardener say the only way he gets his bougainvillea to bloom is to beat it every spring with a baseball bat. We know that roses, if left to themselves, will grow foliage but few roses. The best way to get them to produce what they are designed to do is to cut them back severely annually and shovel down to cut off growing roots. (Yes, those are my two oldest grandchildren, Caleb and Autumn, admiring some of those apples.)
Is there a lesson in this for us? Is it to our benefit that we seek to avoid any kind of challenge? Does a job loss, business failure or home foreclosure “kill” us – or do those very beatings hold within them the potential to make us stronger and more productive? Do we shrink back into safety or can that challenge wake up the very best we have to offer?
As parents, how do we bring out the best in our children? Do we protect them from any possible injury or disappointment – or do we take a deep breath and watch them learn life’s valuable lessons?
When I experienced a horrible business failure a few years ago it woke me up to see how to grow a profitable business in a very non-traditional way. I’ve learned not to be afraid of losing, but only to be afraid of not learning how to win.
Are you taking the “safe” route in life to avoid the stresses and challenges that are trying to release your biggest harvest?