Author: Kristen Barney, MA, MSOD
We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply, and we care so strongly about its future. — President Barack Obama 11/7/12
A few weeks ago, in the midst of political uncertainty in the United States, I was googling botanical terms: serrate, acute, pinnate, and elliptical. I had a mystery tree on my hands.
I could not ease my anxiety about political turmoil, but perhaps I could learn what kind of tree this is, hovering over my garden. It frustrates me. It blocks the sun, slowing plant growth. It drops little seeds which sprout and have to be weeded. And the tree runs its roots into my raised vegetable beds. For three years I have been struggling against it, and recently started asking myself why.
Why fight and ignore what I cannot change? I can trim the tree where it overhangs my garden, but the tree itself belongs to the neighboring property, a large apartment complex. Getting permission to cut the tree and managing to cut it down are bigger tasks than I care to take on.
Besides, I am deeply grateful for the shade. On hot summer days, what a relief it is to take a break in the shade and eat a slice of cold watermelon!
Why not accept the tree as a quirk of my garden patch? How can I come to know it and work with its presence rather than fighting it? How can I transcend this push-pull of loving and being annoyed at something at the same time?
Deep in the night on November 7, in his acceptance speech, President Obama called on us to honor what is difficult about the political process. He named the fierce battle as a surface-level result of a deep love of nation. He said that people in other countries put their lives on the line just to be able to argue. The desire to argue shows there is life and passion. It shows a love of country and hope for the future. We often experience struggle, difficulty, and inconvenient fervor in organizations too. How can we embrace Obama’s call to love what is difficult? In my low-stakes organization (my garden) I try to do just that. Here are three steps I took regarding the tree I love which annoys me, and three lessons I learned: