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The Tallest Trees and the Strongest Winds

The Tallest Trees and the Strongest Winds

I once heard a fable about the trees of a mighty forest. Many years before, a few acorns had been scattered in especially fertile soil and they quickly sprang up first as mere saplings and then as mighty oaks. Because the soil was so rich, they grew quickly and they soon towered over all the trees around them, even those that were much older.

Soon these young oaks began to look with contempt at the rest of the forest, to boast of their size and splendor. Clapping their hands in glee they bragged, “You can only wish you were as tall as we are! You can only wish you could see what we see!” But what they did not know, or perhaps chose not to acknowledge, is that while the soil may have been rich, it was not deep. While it may have contained many nutrients, it sat atop great shelves of impenetrable stone.

The day came when a great winter wind began to blow from the north and as it struck, the whole forest shuddered in pain. As the gusts reached the boastful oaks, they stood strong for a time, but soon enough began to shake, to totter, to sway, to topple. And as they pitched over one by one, crashing to the ground far below, an old elm spoke up. A gnarled old elm who had withstood a hundred winters and weathered a thousand storms said, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” And as he spoke, the humble hickory and pine and chestnut bowed low as if to say “Amen.”

The forest learned something that day. While the trees that rise highest may be the most glorious, they are also the most exposed. While the trees that are tallest may receive the greatest accolades, they are battered by the fiercest winds. The trees that reach the highest heights had better be certain their roots reach far into the ground where they can be stabilized and supported, where they can drink deeply and grow strong.

In fact, the forest learned what each of us must learn, for, as it happens, men and trees are much alike.

Inspired by De Witt Talmage

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