“Some of our greatest periods of growth follow periods of adversity and stress.”
Years ago, a family took a vacation to the mighty redwood forests of California. Before the trip, they bought a new car—the first they had ever owned. Every day, the father washed it, shined it, and gave his family strict instructions regarding what could be eaten in it. He told them he wanted to preserve the “new car smell.”
But after the vacation to the redwoods, that “new car smell” was long gone. The 14-year-old daughter got carsick and emptied the contents of her stomach on the carpet of the back seat. The 8-year-old boy bought some silly putty at a cheap gift shop, something that was not on the contraband list since it was new at the time. One of the putty’s unique characteristics, the family soon discovered, was that it would melt under the heat of the sun. That ability became even more impressive later when the car detail man said, “I’ll be darned. Never seen anything like it. Nothin’ I got will take it out.”
He was right. Nothing ever did.
But there were other reasons the family would never forget that vacation. One particular display in the redwoods left a lasting impression. There, under a glass counter, was a petrified cross section of a giant redwood tree. The ranger explained that you could count the growth rings on the tree to determine its age. Then, after a pause, he added that the tree was approximately 3,000 years old! Accompanying the display were drawings of the tree and its size during its 3,000 years of life. Additionally, to make the display more graphic, artists had placed small markers at significant dates in the past.
One picture of the tree showed its size during the Revolutionary War. A smaller tree depicted its size at the time Christopher Columbus reached the Americas. It was smaller yet at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. The markers also indicated that the tree stood tall, proud, and silent when many of the most important people lived on the stage of world history.
A pamphlet gave more information about the life of the great tree. There were alternating periods of favorable and unfavorable living conditions. In periods of ongoing draught, the rings were closer together. During a great fire there was no growth. During more favorable weather conditions, the rings were farther apart, representing significant growth as the tree sought the sun and flourished as it rose from the forest floor.
Seeing those rings, the father came to a realization that made his car trouble seem very small: Periods of stress and adversity were always followed by tremendous periods of growth.
What was true for that giant redwood is also true for us: Some of our greatest periods of growth follow periods of adversity and stress. To achieve continued personal wellness, one must find a way to recognize the fruits of adversity when it comes, as it is recorded in the growth rings of life.