Once upon an time there was a small tree growing between large trees. He behaved as if he were big. Just as big as his fellow trees. He wanted to join them, looked them in their eyes, laughed if they laughed, bowed with the wind if they did, and stood up when they stood up. He told them big stories.
As a small tree that also wanted to be big, he raised his twigs high, and he held his leaves tight to look as large as he could. His attention focused on the others.
The big trees accepted it at first. In the beginning it was funny, but as time went by they lost interest in the small tree which kept his twigs up higher and higher and telling them increasingly greater stories.
Lonely stood the poor tree between the big trees. Slowly his twigs began to fell down…the leaves malnourished. Fatigued, he just stood there. He didn’t understand and felt profoundly miserable. After some thinking he decided to put on his ‘bold shoes’ and ask the friendliest tree what to do. Why did he not belong? He so had done his best, right?
The kindest tree listened to him, thought for a moment and said,
‘My boy, like a big tree cannot pretend to be small, a small tree cannot pretend to be a big tree. It is as it is: A small tree between large trees should behave like a small tree between large trees. Pretending to be different than you are is like swimming against the tide and this only costs you energy. Energy that you could have used for caring for yourself. For feeding your roots, your trunk, branches and your leaves. Energy that you could have used to be who you are and to become what you are supposed to become.
We have a number of rules here in the forest:
1. Each tree has its own unique place. So do you. Take your place. That’s your right. Only from that place can you do what you have to do. To make your own contribution. Standing on someone else’s place simply gives you unnecessary burden as you have now experienced. Leave ‘that what belongs to someone else’ to that person and only carry what belongs to you.
2. We were here before you. You came with us later. That is the order that rules. As a new tree it is impossible to walk ahead of the older trees. The fact that you came later does not mean that you are worth less though. You are of as much value as we are. You are good and valuable the way you are. Precisely because of what you are. Remember that well!
3. Giving and taking should be in balance. We, larger trees, exchange the same. You as a small tree may take from us, the larger trees. We know that you cannot fully give us back what we can give you. That’s not bad, that’s how it should be. In turn, take care of the trees that come after you, or others who need it. That is enough.’
The small tree listened to the story of the friendly big tree. A sense of relief flowed through him. He did not have to be like the others! He was allowed to be who he was. It did not matter that he did not have such a thick trunk yet. It did not matter that he was not that tall yet and did not have a huge green crown yet. That would even be weird, he suddenly realized. He is the way he is, and that’s enough.
The tree has followed the advice of the friendliest tree. He has taken his own place and has taken good care of himself. The energy he previously put into his environment, he used to take care of himself. And it became obvious! His trunk grew thicker, the roots a little deeper and the leaves are shining in the sun. To his surprise people came to see him and they told each other what a promising tree he was.
Proudly he stood between his larger friends. The new smaller trees looked up to him admiringly. They behaved as he behaved. When he laughed, they laughed. They bowed as he bowed. They looked him to the eyes. They wanted to be just like him.
With the lesson fresh in his memory he shook his full head gently and said, “Believe me! Pretending to be different than you are is like swimming against the tide and this only costs you energy. Energy that you could have used for caring for yourself. For feeding your roots, your trunk, branches and your leaves. Energy that you could have used to be who you are. Which makes you grow as only you can grow. So you can do what only you can do. You are fine the way you are. And that’s the way it is.’
- Karen van Hout