A respected judge is shocked when he hears his teenage son disparaging a gardener to his son for his work, but he learns a life lesson he will never forget.
Judge David Murphy had been caught up in a complex and protracted gangland murder trial and he’d barely spent any time with his son for the last three months. His career on the bench had cost him his marriage, he wouldn’t let it destroy his relationship with his son.
David booked himself and the 14-year-old Mark a long-weekend getaway at an exclusive resort that incorporated a botanic garden with rare plant species from all over the world and a butterfly sanctuary. David was sure some one-on-one time in the idyllic surroundings would work wonders with Mark.
But Mark didn’t seem impressed by the resort. “Dad!” he whined. “This is so LAME!”
“Lame?” asked David. “This is one of the most beautiful resorts in the country, in the most spectacular natural setting, with some great hiking trails…”
Be careful what you allow to take root in your heart.
“Listen,” Mark snapped, “I just want to know the wi-fi password, OK?”
“You’re not going to spend your time online!” cried David. “We’re supposed to spend time together.”
Come on, dad,” Mark sneered. “Give me a break. The only advantage I have is having a rich and famous father. You could have booked us somewhere with girls, sports, fun…”
“Let’s try and make the most of this, OK, Mark?” asked David wearily. “Let’s take a walk around the garden after lunch, OK?”
“Sure dad,” Mark scowled. “Whatever you say.”
After lunch, David had an urgent phone call from the district attorney and asked Mark to go ahead to the botanic garden without him. He told him he’d join him as soon as he could.
When David hung up the call, he made his way to the garden and heard voices among the dense foliage. “What a jerk!” he heard Mark’s voice say. “You think your dad’s cool because he’s a smelly old man who digs manure and picks weeds?”
“He’s my dad,” another young voice said. “He’s the coolest man I know. I love him. Don’t you love your dad?”
Before Mark could answer, David stepped through the bushes. “Mark,” he said coldly. “I think we need to have a talk.” He turned to the young man and said, “I apologize for my son.”
The other boy smiled. “That’s OK, he doesn’t know any better.”
Mark’s face turned scarlet and he stepped forward, his fits clenched. “Get lost, jerk!” he shouted. “Before I smash your face!”
“Stop it!” cried David. “Mark, how could you speak to this boy like that!”
“You don’t tell me what to do either,” Mark turned on David. “Who do you think you are? My father? In that case, you should act like it! You don’t see me for three months, now I’m supposed to be GRATEFUL for your attention?”
A quiet voice interrupted. “Anger is a poison that destroys the heart and the soul.” David and Mark saw a slender man with kind eyes. “Come with me,” the man said to Mark, and to David’s surprise, Mark went along meekly.
The man led Mark through the garden, calmly pointing out several exotic plants. Then he said, “Plants send roots into the soil just like emotions take root in the heart. Love, or hate, we sow the seeds.
“But it’s our choice whether we allow those seeds to take hold. You’re angry, I can see that, and maybe you have reasons. Now you have to decide how you want to live the rest of your life.”
What do you mean?” asked Mark.
The gardener bent down and showed Mark a slender sapling. He gripped it in strong fingers and drew it out of the soil. “This is a young plant. Do you see how easy it is to pull it up? Now, look here…”
The gardener led Mark to another plant. This one was tall, sturdy, and its trunk was as thick as Mark’s body. The man gripped the trunk and pulled as hard as he could, but the plant wouldn’t budge.
This plant has sent down roots so deep and widespread that to dig it up I’d destroy this part of the garden. That is what happens with hate, anger, resentment, and negativity. When they are young saplings, it is easy to pull them out, but when they take hold over your heart and soul, they cannot be uprooted…Be careful what you allow to grow in your heart because it will shape the rest of your life.”
Mark looked at the gardener and said quietly, “Your son is right. You are a very cool guy.”
Mark and the gardener walked back to where his son and David waited. Mark and his dad took a long walk, but the boy never said a single word. That night, when they sat down to dinner, Mark finally opened up.
“I’m sorry dad,” he said to David. “I guess I’m very angry at you because you don’t always have time for me since the divorce. I know about the trial, and I saw the reports on TV every night. I know you were in danger and had FBI guys protecting you and you couldn’t be with me. I know you wanted to protect me, but I missed you…”
David took his son’s hand in his. “It’s OK, son,” he said. “I understand. I love you Mark, and you’re the most important thing in my life. I’m sorry if I’ve failed you son.”
Father and son were both crying as they hugged. Mark realized that love can take root just as deeply, and drive out anger and sadness. It was a lesson that would serve him well for the rest of his life.
What can we learn from this story?
Be careful what you allow to take root in your heart. We can choose to embrace anger and hate, or we can choose to tear it out of our hearts like Mark did and be better, happier people.
Open your heart, and share your pain. The people you care about won’t know how you feel unless you tell them. Communication is the first step to healing.