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Little Stones

By Mike McGough

May, 2019

By any standard it was an ordinary garden. You could say it was your garden-variety garden. It started with a pile of dirt left over from excavation needed to build a small garage. Not having any place to put it, he decided to level it off and let it where it had been piled. To keep if from drifting, he placed some old bricks around it. The dirt pile included some big rocks and some construction debris. They were big, visible, and easy to pick up and clear out. There were also many small stones, but he thought they were too small to cause any problems.

The plot had plenty of sun during the day, and it was situated at a spot where keeping the soil moist was not a problem. After a little raking it was flat and ready to plant. Several random varieties of flower seeds were scatted over the small plot and gently raked into the soil. A little water was all that was needed to complete this small flower garden.

Over the next few days, tiny sprouts appeared among the inevitable grass and weeds that also began to show themselves. Fortunately the grass and weeds grew faster than the flowers, so they were easy to spot and could be pulled. As the days passed, the flower sprouts continued to grow, and soon the plot was dotted with a variety of colors. When it was apparent that the seeds that were going to sprout had done so, it was obvious that many of the seeds scattered did not sprout. The harvest was low that first year.

As spring turned to fall and the flowers began to wilt and die, an interesting pattern emerged. Watering the garden and the summer rains had brought an almost countless number of small stones to the surface. With the stems of the dead flowers still standing, it was easy to see way so many of the seeds never germinated. The small stones had stood in their way, and there were plenty of them. 

Although the plot was not large by any means, getting all of the small stones was going to take a lot of time and would require more than a little effort. It was fall, the garden would lay dormant until the spring, so there was time to get the job done before the next planting. The gardener, a rather patient soul, decided that he would pick ten of the small stones out every time he passed the plot. By doing so he wouldn’t have to disturb the bed or engage in the heavy task of screening the entire plot to get rid of the stone. 

Little by little he removed that which kept so many of his seeds from sprouting. Over the next three years, he stuck to his plan. The benefits of picking the little stones were easy to see, as his garden became more and more full of flowers each summer. He planted the same number of seed packets, but the harvest grew bigger and bigger each year. His ongoing efforts paid ongoing dividends.

The lesson for gardeners is clear, and there is a big life lesson in it as well. In most of your endeavors in life, you can easily see the big obstacles, and if they can be moved, most folks do what they can to get them out of the way. The small obstacles, the ones we can barely see, ones that seem too small to really matter, are often ignored. Sure, there is still progress, and, as in the case of the garden, much of what you do takes root, grows, and blooms. Nonetheless, the small stones in your life, the little obstacles you face, may well be keeping you from reaching a richer, fuller potential of which you are capable. 

Like the gardener, take a look around and see if there may be some small stones keeping some of your potential from blooming. If you find some, and you probably will, don’t try to gather them all on the first pass. More than likely they didn’t get there in a day, so there is no good reason to think you have to eliminate them all in a day. There may also be some that are too heavy, too deeply imbedded, or just impossible to move. Let them there and work around them. With a little effort and a bit of patience, you’ll be surprised how many little obstacles you can clear from your plot in life and how much easier your life will become.

Patiently removing the little stones from your plot in life is time and energy well spent. After all, who wouldn’t like to make their life a little easier and more productive!

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