Thursday, May 28, 2009

Plant Your Tree!

Plant Your Tree!

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

When I took a 3-month sabbatical in 2002, I told myself that I would compile into book form the weekly essays I had written in the 1990’s for my congregation and get them published. I never did.

Each year since, publishing the book has been a vague, I-really-ought-to-do-that kind of goal. You know the type, I’m sure. This year I finally put the goal in writing and vowed that if I didn’t get it published I would shave my head, sell all my possessions, and go to work on a chain gang. I chose the lowest cost, do-it-yourself package from a Christian publishing company and finally got it done. I Like Me!: Essays on Culture, Current Events and the Christian Faith is now in print.

What trees should you have planted years ago? Most of us could make a long list of the things we wish we had done. Here’s the point: for many of these things it’s not too late. You can plant the tree now! Don’t be paralyzed by what you should have done; think instead of what you still can do.

I read occasionally about people who have never saved for retirement. They are in their early 50’s. They are paralyzed by regret. But what every financial advisor tells them is, “Start now! Better late than never!” This is true of almost everything in life.

In my sophomore year at Rhodes College I took Spanish II. It really clicked; I loved it and vowed to minor in it. Then when I got to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for my junior year in 1982, the professor assigned us a paper in Spanish the first day. I panicked and dropped the class. I found out later that he just wanted to see how proficient the students were and I would have been on a par with the rest. That was my chance to plant the tree and I didn’t. Later when I was preaching in L.A., I took some Spanish classes at U.C.L.A. but never reached conversational proficiency. Another missed opportunity. Que lastima! This year I have purchased a Spanish learning program on CD’s and vowed to reach my goal in 2009. It is twenty-seven years late, but it is better than never.

What do you wish you had done years ago? You can still redeem that desire by doing something now.

When I was a junior in high school my favorite class was English with Ms. Fleur Simmons. One of our assignments was to read Thomas Wolfe’s classic first book, Look Homeward Angel. I didn’t read it, didn’t write the paper. What a knucklehead I was. Ms. Simmons chose not to flunk me but rather to make me promise to read the book “sometime.” That is called mercy. At my ten-year reunion in 1990 she even asked me about it! I still had not read it but promised I would. It became one of those “someday” goals. You know the type, I’m sure.

Ms. Simmons, I don’t know if you are still alive, but I just ordered the book and will read it this summer. That’s a shave-my-head-and- join-the-chain-gang vow.

What trees do you need to plant in your life? The best time may have been years ago, but the second best time is now.


Blogger rick.donlon said...

Rick Donlon here. I've been reading and enjoying The Way I See It since Steve Moroney told me about it a few years ago.I recently got a FaceBook friend suggestion from your sister--Molly thought I might want to be virtual friends with Fleur Simmons. I demurred because I also remember not reading a book or two, but if you want to contact her, Molly knows how. Blessings...

6:33 PM  
Blogger Matt Soper said...

Thanks much, Rick. I'm glad to hear from you.

7:22 AM  

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