If you ever need to be more thankful, talk to a senior citizen. No, seriously.
This past week, I spent a wonderful morning with the seniors of Cloverdale, and one of them told the following story:
There once was a short, young apple tree that grew in the middle of a forest full of tall, old oak trees. And from his vantage point in the middle of the forest, the little apple tree would look up at a sky filled with stars. And it was then that the apple tree made a mistake. You see, from where he was growing, it looked like the stars were growing from the branches of the oak trees. And so the apple tree felt sad. He said to himself… why don’t I have stars growing from my branches? If I could only grow stars, then I would be special. And a voice came on the wind: Be patient little tree.
And springtime came. The apple tree put out blossoms and many people walked by, commenting on the beauty of the tree and staring up at him in awe. But still the tree wanted more. If only I could grow stars, then I would be special. And the voice came on the wind a second time: Be patient little tree.
Then summer came, and the blossoms had turned into the best apples you’ve ever seen. But was the tree satisfied? If only I could grow stars, then I would be special. And the voice came a third time: Be patient little tree.
Then the seasons began to change, and a cold wind blew through the forest, and the last apple fell from the tree and split open on the ground. The wind also carried with it the now familiar voice: Look down little tree.
And what did the tree see when he looked down?
There was a star in his apples the whole time! And the little tree was content.
So, how does all this relate to Thanksgiving and talking to seniors? Is it just that the seniors can tell good stories that make you feel better? While that is true, it’s a little deeper than that.
You see, while the story of the apple tree can be understood to teach the value of having proper self-esteem and that everyone is special (both true and important lessons), there is, in fact, a deeper lesson that we can see in it. This deeper lesson is made more clear by this passage from 2 Kings 6:
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Do you see? The story of the apple tree teaches us the same lesson as this story from Scripture: you need to adjust your eyes. Learn to look at things the way that God does. Our contentedness and thanksgiving don’t come from our earthly circumstances. They can’t! Instead, we need to look to the one who gives us comfort in life and in death, in barren years and in years of plenty. In the spring rains and the winter rains.
So, this Thanksgiving season, if you are unsatisfied with your lot in life, talk to a senior citizen. Their earthly circumstances may be worse than yours (chronic pain, lost loved ones, forgetfulness), but they have learned to turn their eyes heavenward and look with the eyes of God, and this is a valuable lesson for us all.