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The Cedar and the Oak


Bob Hyman

Sometimes just observing nature can teach us valuable lessons about life.

The cold rain had turned to sleet. Our unseasonably warm spell had finally given way to Winter's fury. As I hurried back to the warmth and safety of home, the ice was already starting to form on the branches and electric wires above. Not long after I arrived, the power flickered and finally went off all together. With flashlight in hand, I made a final survey around the yard to see how things were holding up outside. The massive oak glistened proudly with its icy coat, but the poor cedar was slumped pitifully with its branches on the ground. Realizing there was nothing I could do to help, I went back inside to the warmth of the candles.

An eerie silence hung heavily over the house, like death in waiting. The only sound was the ice pelting the windows. It is funny how you never think about the multitude of normal household sounds until they are missing. Alone in the darkness, with the cold dampness creeping in all around me, I decided to turn in early. I crawled deep under the covers and waited for my body to warm the blankets around me. As the trees outside creaked and groaned in their suffering, I drifted off into a silent but uncomfortable sleep.

Sometime in the early morning the power came back on. I was awakened by the drone of the refrigerator coming back to life, and of the heater working overtime to bring things back to normal. I got up, went through the motions of setting the clocks and turning off lights, and then looked outside.

The poor cedar was still slumped over, even worse-looking than the night before. But under the ice, it was still in one piece; all it needed was for the sun to help it shed its heavy load. The oak was another story altogether. Sometime in the night, it had lost its fight. Now, only its massive trunk remained standing defiantly against the sky; the shattered ice-covered branches littered the yard at its feet.

I realized that the ungainly cedar, with its branches drooped lazily on the ground, would survive the ordeal. Somehow, it had known the load was too much to bear alone, and had shared it with the ground around it. The proud oak, unable to bend, had tried to face the challenge on its own.

Isn't that just the way we are sometimes? When faced with seemingly insurmountable hurdles, do we react like the cedar, or like the oak? Will we ask for help, or will we try to go it alone? The decision is ours to make ... and the correct choice should be obvious.

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