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April 26, 2023

In a recent speaking engagement I referred to the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to both withstand and overcome adversity. I used the example of what I call the “giraffe tree”.

On a wood lot property my wife and I used to own there was a very strangely shaped maple tree. It was tall, fully leaved, and magnificent. But it looked like a giraffe: straight for the first 20 feet, then the trunk branched out at almost 90 degrees like the neck before shooting upwards like the head of the iconic African animal. How did that happen I wondered?

Then it occurred to me. An older tree had died and fallen heavily upon the sapling years ago. Flattened but alive the little tree grew up towards the light even as most of its thin trunk lay horizontally beneath the weight of the decaying dead tree. Over time the deadfall rotted, lost its critical mass, and incrementally released the now “adolescent” sapling. About 15 years passed before the sapling sprung free, but it did, forever misshaped into a “giraffe”. But it flourished. What’s more its radical bent shape strengthened it. There was a large crack in the trunk, evidence of a lightening strike that failed to fell it. Its crown of leaves, now 60 feet high, was the most glorious in the forest.

The life lesson? Sometimes our adversities, disabilities, and dysfunctions can make us strong and fruitful. Our will to overcome always wins.