Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bring It On

Tonight the temperature here is expected to drop below freezing again, but you wouldn't know it by looking at our mango tree. It has thousands of flowers. Last year at this time it got hit hard by the frost and lost all of its flowers (and some side branches). And now look at it. Is it brave or just stupid?

I know, it is programmed for warmer climates. But you'd think it might have gotten a hint last year.

This morning, out of the blue, I remembered a guy I knew in college. We played in the orchestra together. He seemed a typical band geek, played the saxophone, I think--I really didn't know him well. A few years after we graduated I saw him in the bar where I played and we talked for a bit. He had gotten a job as a music teacher in southern Arkansas but only lasted at the school for two years. The school's principal and many of the teachers were small-minded, he said, and bigoted. He finally had a big disagreement with the principal and quit. Disillusioned, he took up drinking. At the time he worked at a factory in town. He showed me his hands, cut and blistered.

Was this guy brave or stupid, principled or lazy? I congratulated him for quitting the school. Then I asked him why didn't he look for another teaching job--anything other than a factory job.

It's honest work, he said, clearly with his feelings hurt and surprised that I didn't understand the sacrifices he had made to do the right thing. He was pretty drunk. I went back up to play again and he slipped out the door. Today I don't even remember his name.

Things are less complicated for the mango tree. Bring it on, it says.

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