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Bamboo

By: Chris Barrows & Jasmine Scott

We live in an instant gratification culture.  We want what we want when we want it.  When things don’t happen as quickly or as planned, it’s easy to become frustrated or feel as if you’re falling behind.

Feelings of inadequacy, or doubt, or wanting to give up creep in. This is often magnified when we compare ourselves to others.

What gets lost in this thinking is that we each have our own journey and grow at our own pace.  The adversity or the slow growth you’re experiencing now is still growth and it will make you stronger.

This is an allegory that explains the importance of allowing yourself to grow at your own pace, and the power in embracing that growth.

One day I decided to quit. I quit my job, my relationship, I just wanted a different life. I was going through the motions like a background character in a movie. Always doing what was expected of me, and rarely paying attention to my own wants and needs. My life became monotonous. I needed to make a change. I went to see my grandmother. She was the person in my life that I felt the most comfortable confiding in. As we sat in her garden, I told her what was going on.

“Nana”, I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”

Her answer surprised me.

“Look around,” she said, gesturing to her garden.

“Do you see the fern and the bamboo?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water.

The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor.

Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed.

But I did not quit on the bamboo.

She said, “In the third year, there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit.

In the fourth year, again, there was nothing from the bamboo seed. “I would not quit.”

She said, “Then in the fifth year a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. Compared to the fern it was seemingly small and insignificant.

But six months later the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall. It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I give each fern, seed, and plant in my garden the opportunity to flourish.”

We sat in silence for several minutes, as I did my best to process everything she had said to me. She let out an empathetic sigh before continuing. “Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling you have actually been growing roots?”

“I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you.”

“Don’t compare yourself to others.” She said, “The bamboo had a different purpose from the fern. Yet, they both make my garden beautiful.”

“Your time will come”, She said to me. “You will rise high!”

“How high should I rise?” I asked, a bit apprehensively.

“How high will the bamboo rise?” She asked in return.

“As high as it can?” I questioned.

“Yes.” She said, “Give me pride by rising as high as you can.”

I left my grandmother’s garden and brought back this story. I took the time I needed to reflect on my life, and her advice.

Good days bring you contentment; bad days bring you learning opportunities. Adversity is where growth happens and when you become strong.  Both are essential and unavoidable. Keep going. Don’t quit. Tomorrow is another day.

December 29, 2021

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