I like trees. I love beautiful fall leaves, crunching through them when I walk and even jumping in piles of them as I did as a kid. Twenty years ago when I moved into my brand new house, the barren lawn depressed me, so I planted trees, lots of trees. On my very tight, almost nonexistent budget, I planted very small trees. We’re talking the one foot tall variety, and longed for the day when they would make pretty fall leaves that my kids could play in. Well, be careful what you wish for, because now I have dozens of huge trees that–you guessed it–make millions of leaves to rake every fall. My kids have grown up and moved away and there I am raking leaves each fall, day after day, week after week.
October is the middle of leaf season, so last Saturday found me outside trying to rid my driveway of the piles of leaves that covered every inch of its surface. I have about a dozen huge Aspen trees that line both sides. So I raked and broomed and filled my large trash container to the brim, but in the end the surface was leaf free. Imagine my dismay when walking outside Sunday morning after a very windy night to find the driveway once again totally covered in leaves! My heart sank, dang leaves.
It was then that I noticed something that turned my frown into a smile. There in the middle of all of the Aspen leaves in various shades of yellow, green, and brown was one little bright red maple leaf. I looked around and there were no red maple trees within eyesight of my front yard. Where did you come from? I thought. I knew there were some maple trees a few blocks to the south, the leaf had come a long way to settle in my drive. I wondered why it wasn’t laying somewhere in a pile of similar red leaves. Why had it chosen (do leaves make choices?) to leave its own kind and come and hang out with leaves of a different shape and color. More likely, it wasn’t a choice, the little leaf had simply been swept up by a passing wind and carried at random to my driveway, where by its differentness it caught my attention and brightened my day. Had that leaf simply stayed where it fell, most likely no one would have ever noticed its uniqueness, surrounded by many leaves the same as itself. It would have been raked up by someone frustrated by all of the red leaves covering their yard.
Anyway, it got me thinking about our role as humans on this earth. If we stay to close to home and surround ourselves too much with the familiar and those others exactly like ourselves, will we have the chance to brighten someone’s day or stand out in this world? Shouldn’t we all venture out into the unknown world? Try something or somewhere different? Interact with people different from ourselves, from who we can learn so much. And whether we choose to take those different paths or whether we are seemingly blown there by the wind, we should all remember that there is a reason for us being wherever we land. So do it–smile–brighten someone’s day– and celebrate where you are. A lesson I learned form a little red leaf!