10: Lessons Learned from a Money Tree

10: Lessons Learned from a Money Tree

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Lessons Learned from a Money Tree

There are rich counsels in the trees.

~Herbert P. Horne

Times were financially tough. That was a disturbing fact as I browsed the gardening section of our local nursery. Since learning that live plants increased the air quality of one’s home, I decided to purchase an inexpensive one.

Eyeing the price tags on houseplants, I walked farther down the aisle, pausing beside a row of trunk-braided, leafy trees labeled Pachira aquatica, or “Money Tree.”

I liked the tree’s appearance, and that its description contained the words “easy care.” A low maintenance plant might survive my care, since I’d been told that my gardening skills, or lack thereof, could destroy even plastic plants.

Turning the tag over, I glanced at the first few sentences of a charming little story, learning that the money tree’s legend boasted of good fortune. I didn’t believe in folklore, but something about the tree’s myth hit a tender spot with me.

“We sure could use you,” I whispered aloud, thinking of my husband’s dwindling income due to economic woes. The past year had been hard enough with the deaths of several loved ones, but then financial challenges arose, compounding our grief. “I need wisdom,” I murmured aloud, finding myself praying again for understanding in how to respond to life’s trials. Sighing, I made my decision and reached for the healthiest looking tree to purchase.

At home, I positioned the three-foot money tree in a corner beside an upstairs window, and promptly forgot about it. Within several weeks, daily life became more dismal. Friends and family lost jobs, illnesses multiplied, and my husband worked extra hours with less pay.

A cloud of despair hovered over our household.

“Buck needs watering, Mom,” my nine-year-old son, Simeon, reminded me. “I can water him before I go outside.”

“Buck?” I questioned, learning that he and his sister, Abigail, had named the tree after a dollar bill. “Thanks, honey, but I’ll do it,” I said, realizing that I hadn’t watered the poor thing since purchasing it.

Finding the tree droopy with several crinkled leaves, I was surprised it was not in poorer condition. The tree’s care sheet suggested medium sunlight, but with the window blind pulled down, the tree had little to none. Yet, somehow, it had managed to lean towards the small amount of sunlight shining through a slit. “Resourceful little thing,” I acknowledged, lifting the shade. “I admire that.”

That night, sleep eluded me. Instead of resting, my mind worked overtime with the “what ifs.” What if my husband lost his job? What if our health insurance was cancelled? What if I couldn’t find a part-time job?

Anxiety weaved itself into our home, subtly at first, but then more aggressively as we allowed fear to dominate our thoughts.

“Mom, I could start watering Buck,” my daughter, Abigail, offered one afternoon. “I’ll write it on my calendar so I won’t forget.”

Her gentle reminder that he could use regular care didn’t go unnoticed. “Thanks, sweetie, but I’ll take care of it.”

“Will we be able to go to the movies this Friday?” she asked, her tone doubtful—the result of recent family activities being cancelled.

“Not this Friday, honey,” I said, thinking of the electric bill. “Maybe the next, though.”

“Okay, Mom,” she smiled, breaking my heart with her gentle acceptance of our financial circumstances. “Maybe the next.”

I headed upstairs, finding my son beside the money tree. “I was going to water Buck, Mom, but now that you’re here, I can help Dad and Abigail wash the car.” He handed me the watering can.

“They’ll like that,” I nodded, taking the jug while considering the tree. My husband had recently placed a bookshelf near the window, blocking part of the sunlight from reaching the plant. Yet, somehow, the money tree had stretched itself towards its need, soaking up the diminutive amount of daylight offered.

Amazed, I peered closer. “Unbelievable. You’re actually growing,” I whispered, touching a tender shoot. “Buck, you’re making the best of a tough environment and a neglectful owner,” I told it, sprinkling its soil with water. “I could learn a lesson from you.”

Silence ensued as if the tree asked me, “Well, why don’t you?”

I didn’t have an answer until I heard laughter from outside the window. Moving the curtains, I watched as my husband sprayed our children with the hose. The water drenching Simeon and Abigail seemed to replenish my spirit too. It’s so nice to hear sounds of happiness again, I thought, touching the window. So why had I allowed worry to overtake our joy as a family?

Glancing at Buck again, I felt a transformation beginning. Lifting the tree, I carried it downstairs, and positioned it near the front window where it wouldn’t be ignored. “If things are going to change, let’s start with your care.”

I then grabbed a notebook and called my family inside to sit at the dining room table. “I need ideas,” I told them, explaining what I’d like to do. “Since attending movie theaters are too expensive right now, what can we do instead?”

“How ’bout a ‘family night?’” Abigail suggested. “We could rent movies and make popcorn. That shouldn’t cost much.”

“Great idea,” her father nodded. “We can do it every Friday.”

We continued brainstorming, all agreeing that the weekly bowling with friends would now be video games at our house, complete with pizza. As we continued to deliberate, suggest, and vote, our excitement grew and with it, I realized that we were not only making the best of our situation, but we were doing it as a family. I realized this could bring us even closer as I listened to the animated chatter in the room.

And I was right. Several months later, we realized that what we’d sacrificed could not compare to what we had gained. Family nights were now spent snuggled together on our sectional couch while watching a newly released movie. Friends’ day with video games turned out to be a much-anticipated hit. And each day, we prayed together and recounted at least one blessing to be thankful for.

The cloud of worry, which had hovered over us months earlier, was now replaced with an enthusiastic resolve to take hold of life and re-shape it for the benefit of all.

Our family had put forth simple steps of practicality, but they were ones that made a significant change in our attitudes.

Retrieving my watering can, I walked over to Buck. His store tag was still propped inside the soil, and I pulled it out. Turning it over, I read the rest of the money tree’s legend, learning that when a hard-working farmer had dug up the unusual plant growing in his field, he’d brought it home and learned life lessons from the resilient tree. Soon, the farmer became a wealthy entrepreneur.

I smiled, realizing that my prayer for wisdom had been answered. Touching Buck’s leaves, I sighed. Maybe the legend of the money tree wasn’t simple folklore after all. Maybe the tree’s myth had been built around a universal truth. A truth that where faith, love, and hope abides, the human spirit can prevail in all circumstances.

Sometimes people just need a gentle reminder of that fact—even if that reminder comes from the strangest of sources—like a money tree named Buck.

~Karen Majoris-Garrison

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