The Chinese Bamboo Tree: A Lesson in Perseverance, Patience and Persistence

by Chinyere Ugomma Eze-Nliam

The heights by great men reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, toiled ever upward through the night”: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Agriculture was never my favourite subject in high school. I hated particularly the farming sessions where we were taught how to cultivate different species of plants. I remember vividly wishing i could disappear into thin air, any time i sighted the Agric teacher coming up with his hoes and cutlasses for the day’s ordeal. Unfortunately, those sessions were part and parcel of our curriculum so i couldn’t escape, that is unless i didn’t mind repeating a class which was certainly out of the question.

Neither could i escape my mother’s farm back home. My mom took the popular “Operation feed the Nation’’ programme literatim. I guess she figured the best way to feed the nation was to commence with her family first. After all charity, they say begins at home. So beginning of the rainy season, she marched all her household in addition to the hired labourers to her half acre farm land just some blocks away from our residence. Our saving grace was our youth so we were made to do the least complicated farm chores like planting maize and okra, while the hired farm hands performed the more onerous tasks of digging ridges, planting yams, cocoyams etc.

It always amazed me how those tiny seeds we planted not only grew so quickly and so tall, they almost always yielded a bountiful harvest. Those two small seeds that were each sowed in a ridge engendered many finger licking moments. The adage you reap what you sow began to take shape in my head and sank into my young mind like a stone. It seemed to be the law of nature.

Yet there is this enigmatic plant that is at very odds with the law of nature. The Chinese bamboo tree is a unique plant on its own. Picture this scenario: you plant a tree and conscientiously water and fertilize the first year with no visible results. The second year you continue to irrigate, fertilize and care for the bamboo tree and it still does not develop an inch. The same story repeats itself the third and the fourth year. After all the attention and hard work which doesn’t seem to be paying off, how many people would still have the mental adroitness, the dexterity to continue holding the fort as far as the tree is concerned? You’re tempted to give up on this “cursed” tree but ALAS! in the fifth year, something unimaginable, miraculous some would say happens. The tree suddenly shoots up and becomes a towering 90 foot tree with 6 weeks. That’s the height of a nine-story office building. Infact, the World Book Encyclopedia records that one bamboo plant can grow three feet in a simple twenty-four hour period.

So what happened? Did the bamboo tree after four years of inactivity, suddenly shoot up 90 feet in the fifth year? The answer is as clear as a bald head. The tree grew 90 feet in 5 years. All those years, the tree’s development was taking place in the invisible realm, toiling and budding underground in a massive, fibrous root structure that would eventually become strong enough to support its exponential growth rate. If you had given up earlier, your whole labour would have come to nought.

In life, there will be challenging times. You can work on your dreams for weeks, months and even years with no visible signs of progress and then, all of the sudden, things take off. People, who patiently toil towards their dreams and goals, building strong character while overcoming adversity and challenge, grow the strong internal structure to handle success when it eventually comes. Maintain your faith even when you can’t see your rewards in front of you. Say to yourself, it just hasn’t happened yet! The most important work is the work that no one can see.

….So keep watering your Chinese Bamboo Tree. Any time, you’re tempted to give up, remind yourself that your day is just around the corner. Patience is indeed a virtue for nothing lasts forever.

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