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Ordinary People Taking Action
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Every Mother’s Day, my family asks for hints before they head out to shop for a gift. Last May, I let them know I wanted something a little different – a lemon tree. Why a lemon tree? Well, for starters, I am a huge lemon fan. Lemon blueberry cake is a top request on my birthday, and when I am in the mood for a sweeter drink, a lemon drop is my first choice. Lemonade on a summer day is a slice of heaven. Then there is lemon juice squeezed over a salad or piece of fish – delicious. Just the smell of lemon trees makes me happy. So, it was settled – I would ask for a lemon tree.
For those who don’t know me personally, I live in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. That’s right – the grey, rainy city. Lemon trees thrive in sunny places like Florida and California; they aren’t particularly common here in the Pacific Northwest. So, I did some research and found a loophole. Apparently, they can survive if they are kept in a pot. This allows the tree to be taken outdoors when temperatures remain above 50 degrees. When the overnight low drops below 50 degrees, it can be brought indoors.
Mother’s Day, 2017, finally arrived and my family pulled through. Excitedly, they led me to my long-awaited lemon tree. Best. Gift. Ever.
I named him Mr. Lemon Tree. Don’t ask me why. This is not a name with hidden meanings or symbolism, so definitely not worthy of analysis. But I liked it. Anyway, last spring we proceeded to move the tree from inside to outside. At first, it was no big deal, especially since it was May, which meant summer was right around the corner. Last summer’s temperatures hit record highs, so at first, the tree did really well. By the end of the summer, it had grown quite a bit, had green leaves and even went through the first complete cycle of white flower buds. There was no reason to believe there were or would be any issues.
By October, we moved the tree inside for the winter. I knew from all my research that a south-facing window is the ideal spot for a lemon tree. Sadly, it suddenly occurred to me that we have windows facing every direction but south. Within just a couple weeks of being inside, the sunny skies turned grey, and the tree showed the first signs of issues. Leaves started to fall.
I moved the tree around to several locations throughout the house, but none of the windows seemed to be providing the right light. Each move came with more fallen leaves. By February, only one leaf remained. The ends of the branches were brown and dead. The core of the tree still had some green, but not much. It was the saddest lemon tree – all its lemon-producing potential from the summer before, seemingly gone. My husband and son made a joke that they would buy plastic lemons and hang them from the dead tree.
Yet, I continued to care for the tree. Consistently checking to ensure it had some water – not too much though – and doing my best to move it to the sunniest window. Some days it would sit in front of two or three windows “chasing” the bit of sun that we had. Each day the tree would look worse and worse, almost to the point that I felt like giving up on trying to keep it alive.
Maybe it was to prove my family wrong. Maybe it is because I have strong determination. Maybe it is because I seem to always cheer for the “underdog”. Or maybe it is because I just really love lemons – and the thought of having my own tree. Whatever the reason, I didn’t give up. I kept taking care of Mr. Lemon Tree. He kind of felt like family.
Well, two weeks ago, the sunshine came back in Seattle. We have truly had some remarkable sun-filled days. This gave me a newfound level of hope and optimism for the tree. I started moving it outside every morning. I placed my lemon tree right in the middle of the yard, to maximize sun exposure for the day. And I carefully brought it inside each night.
The result? Mr. Lemon Tree has new growth. It’s coming back – it’s alive – with new potential.
The name of my tree may not be symbolic, but I think the outcome of this story is. I can’t help but compare my experience to what can happen with employees in a workplace setting.
How often is it when we first hire someone that we are excited by their potential? We start off watching them grow – to reach new heights – to blossom. Then for some unknown or unseen reason, their performance suffers – their light starts to fade. It’s easy at that point to turn the other way and move on – maybe moving on to another person, another company, another tree. The original tree is gone, tossed to the side. It may seem that your options are to start over with a new tree or abandon having a tree altogether. Or maybe the lesson here is not to give up on the person too soon. With a little attention, some support and nurturing, people can go a long way – just like Mr. Lemon Tree.