We Are Like Weeping Willows

Weeping WillowI love weeping willows. They’re my favorite of the willows—probably because of the memories I have of swinging in the branches of my grandma and grandpa’s giant weeping willow tree. So it was with great delight that I learned that willow branches of any kind are easy to root, even from the smallest cuttings. So I studied up and figured out what I needed to do, and then toured the neighborhood to scope out the local weeping willows.

The first one I found had dropped a 3 foot branch (keep in mind, three feet of weeping willow is a pretty thin wisp) in the road out several yards from the massive mother tree. So, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, I picked up the branch and took it home.

Then I went to work, stripping off the leaves and cutting it down every 6-9 inches, and placed the sticks in a jar, like headless roses in a vase, and waited. And waited. And waited. By the time a month had passed, I had a whole crop of small weeping willows.

The next time there was a good wind in the neighborhood, I did another neighborhood run (I’d scoped out several other weeping willows in town by then), and picked up several (there were too many to take them all) 2-4 foot branches that had blown out into the road. Weeping willows are notorious for dropping branches, so when there’s a storm or rough winds in the neighborhood, it’s like weeping-willow-gardener Christmas.

Since then, I’ve started new trees from several more twigs, and I’m even “branching” out with some other kinds of willows. And while I do lose a good percentage of the sticks I try to root, there are enough succeeding that I can’t help be amazed by these wonderful little phenomena.

That got me thinking about people.

We’re all kind of like those old weeping willows. Beautiful, lush, often ignored or forgotten, waving long branches day after day. When the winds of life blow, or storms come, we break a little, and eventually recover. Most such stormy times have strengthened us to become the large willows we are today. And what happens to the branches broken off? Most the time they either end up in the trash or compost heap. But once in a while, and perhaps it takes an insightful passerby, but occasionally, the scattered fragments of our broken hearts are gathered, cleaned, divided, organized, and nourished, and left to grow. And the result? New life, new growth, and new opportunities for new trees.

It’s usually easy to see ourselves as old forgotten trees, doing our thing day after day, unnoticed by everyone. And when times are tough, it’s hard, but we’re strengthened. But it takes a deeper, humbler, and more determined examination to see the potential of our own influence on the lives of those around us.

Right now, I have probably 25 little weeping willow trees (those are just the ones that have been successful) growing from the cuttings of three medium-sized branches. Each, I hope, will go on to new homes to beautify and keep the company of someone, somewhere, who may have otherwise never had them. The tree didn’t shed its branch to create new opportunities and life for others. It shed it’s branch because it was forced to against its will. And yet, from that commonplace and uncomfortable situation, the tree influenced, if only in the distant future, dozens of other trees, homes, and people, without even knowing it.

Your life is like that. You have more influence than you think. You’re touching lives. You’re providing opportunities, and you’re creating new life, even when you feel like you’re doing nothing.

The trick—the whole reason for this post, is to draw your attention to a simple thing that none of those mother willow trees can do, but which you can. You, as a person, have the power to see, reflect, and rejoice in the influence you have. You won’t see all of it, of course, but if you pay attention, you can see much of the good you’re doing. If you look deep enough, you’ll find enough to provide a lifetime’s worth of rejoicing.

The other reason I share this idea is to say, don’t be afraid to shed your branches. Don’t be afraid to have an influence. Sure, most of your efforts will be thrown out, forgotten, or ignored, but the more influence you try to have, the more chance you’ll have to start new beginnings for someone else. And those new beginnings may grow, expand, and branch out to bless the lives of other new beginnings for other people forever.

Revolutionizing the Course of the Universe

This story took place a short time before Jenni and I were married.


It was a very dull day at Deseret Book as I leaned against the counter, chin in hands, waiting for something to happen. One of my co-workers stood only a few feet away, bored as I was.

“So,” I said, trying to break the monotony, “What should I do to revolutionize the course of the world today?”

He thought a moment. “Got any bombs? You could always blow up an important building somewhere.”

“That’s true. But I don’t have any bombs. Besides, that’s a bad thing, and there are plenty of bad things going on all the time. I need to find something good to do.”

“That’s true,” he replied. Then we both fell back into silence.

I began thinking more about our conversation. What could one do to revolutionize the course of the world? What about the universe? Could one person effect the destiny of the universe?

There have been many people who have changed the course of life on this planet; Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. George Washington led a revolutionary war that led to the foundation of what might be considered the most powerful nation in world history. But did those things change the destiny of the universe?

It occurred to me that the person who best fit that description would have to be Jesus Christ. Not only did he save the destiny of every person who would ever live, but He provided a way for us to become like His Father.

Now there’s a new approach to the question. If I have potential to become like my Father in Heaven, then certainly I have power to effect the destiny of the universe.
So I guess the next question would have to be, what can I do today to best effect that progress? Of course, a response as broad as “live the gospel” wasn’t really a sufficient, since I had been striving to do that my whole life.

Then I realized that I was in the process of beginning one of the major aspects of the perfecting process. I was about to get married in the temple. I decided that maybe the best thing I could do to work toward that goal would be to strengthen my relationship with Jenni. How could I do that? That question is easy. I could be kind and loving to her.

I looked around the store. Everything was quiet, normal, ordinary. Customers came in and left. Employees straightened bookshelves or stood patiently waiting for something to happen. I had a date with Jenni scheduled for that night. I decided that tonight I would change the course of the universe – I would show love and kindness towards her.