I recently came across the story of the Chinese bamboo tree and from it I learned lessons in perseverance, hard work, hope and patience. I hope you too learn a thing or two from it.
The Chinese bamboo tree, when planted, requires the care of the farmer and the help of the elements to help it grow. The farmer nourishes the plant by providing it with water and fertilizer. He does this for the first year but nothing happens; he sees no growth to show that the plant is receiving the nutrition provided it. The farmer continues to toil. The story is no different in the second and third year but the farmer keeps toiling away because he knows that it is the bamboo tree. Finally between the fourth and fifth year, when the bamboo decides to sprout, in as little as six week, it grows as high as eighty feet.
This story shows us man’s capability to persevere when he is certain that there is light at the end of the tunnel; it shows how we persist in face of trials that we encounter along the way when we are certain that after the rain, there will be sunshine. That is why a medical student stays in school for eight years – he knows that the higher salaries he will earn during his career will more than compensate for the extra four years he spent in school more than his peers. Hope is the reason a parent raises a child, wipes his nose and butts for the first few years of life, guides him through life and gives him a proper education. Parents know that some day, the child ends up doing for them those things they once did for him. Parents know that children, for want of a better word, end up parenting their parents. In the face of hope, there is no limit to what we can achieve. But what happens in those cases when there seems to be no guarantee that we will get what we want from our hard work? What happens when you are establishing a new business and you read depressing statistics of the number of businesses that fail within the first five years. What if a farmer who doesn’t know about the bamboo tree’s characteristic delayed growth plants it in the hope that it will sprout within the first year and it doesn’t? Will the farmer be patient enough to keep watering and fertilizing a seeming barren tree.
It has been my experience that most of life is like that; that the positive little things we do everyday, however insignificant, come in handy later in life. I read somewhere that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder, attributes part of his success to some class he voluntarily took outside his regular coursework in college. In my own case, though I have yet to get where I will like to be in my career, I have a personal experience that taught me that all the little things we do prepare us for challenges ahead. As a law student in a Nigerian university, I studied my course work but also found time to read foreign non-fiction and also legal thrillers including most of John Grisham’s. It was from these books that I got acquainted with words like deposition and jury, etc. – words I didn’t learn in law school because they had no relevance in Nigeria’s legal system. I was so familiar with the American legal system that when I did not want to disclose an information to a friend, I would jokingly say that I was pleading the Fifth (amendment), US’ equivalent to Section 35(2) of the Nigerian constitution on the right to remain silent following an arrest or detention. At the time, reading foreign legal works seemed like a waste of time since the laws in most countries differed from the ones in Nigeria. Years later, I found myself in a position where I had to write a foreign bar exam. Though God was the most significant factor in my passing the exam, I also believe that having read Grisham and other foreign authors helped me a lot. For instance, one of the questions on the foreign bar exam was on the 4th amendment right on searches and seizures. A driver’s car had been searched by the police following a sobriety test. I wonder how I would have appreciated the question if I didn’t understand what sobriety test was given that in Nigeria we don’t have- or don’t enforce – laws against driving under the influence. Could I have appropriately analyzed whether the subsequent search was made after a lawful legal arrest and detntion?
Sometimes in life, we feel like we are stuck in a rut; that we are doing the same boring thing day in, day out, without much hope for change or progress. But I want to remind you of the trite saying that no knowledge – and positive act – is a waste. There is the university student who, having learned to make braids while at home, used her skills to make extra money while in school; there is the landlord whose experience working at a hardware store at a younger age made him familiar with tools that when he bought his own property, he fixed things himself in the house and saved money that would otherwise go to plumbers and handymen. I also once read about a couple whose career both had something to do with taking care of handicapped children and who when they eventually had a handicapped child, were better parents because of their experience from work.
Patience and hope can make us persist even when our inclination is to quit. When we have the audacity, the boldness and the courage given by hope, we position ourselves to accomplish things beyond ourselves. It is discouraging to send out hundreds of job applications without getting a reply, but if you consider that it takes just one positive response to get you employed, you will persist. Through the highs and lows of marriage, if you remind yourself of what a couple who have been together for decades said, ‘that is at the end of our lives, not the beginning of our marriage, that we realize we married our soul mates’, then you will have the patience to weather life’s storm together with your partner. And amidst the drudgery of your day job, if you remember that it pays the bill and prepares you for higher positions, you will be a happier and more productive employee.
So let’s cheerfully do all the positive things required of us from our jobs, families etc. They may appear worthless at this time but in the end we will realize that it was all worth it. The only reason the bamboo tree is able to grow so high is that for those four years, it laid a solid foundation on the ground that is able to carry its enormous weight in later years. Now, you wouldn’t want a success that doesn’t have adequate foundation, would you? So let’s toil, let’s do all the seeming mundane routines life requires of us. Soon enough, we will be unto something as gigantic as the Chinese bamboo tree. Let us have the audacity to hope. Let’s not quit because it may just be the moment before our bamboo sprouts.