Words of Wisdom aims to highlight important morals, which we feel our readers will benefit from reading. We hope you enjoy this fable.
To the Chinese, bamboo is a symbol for strength, durability, flexibility, and resilience. If you need a little inspiration, especially if you’ve landed on tough times, check out this story about the bamboo forest. After reading it, you’ll realize you can’t just quit because you can’t immediately see the fruits of your labor.
As the story goes, a man gave up everything and journeyed to a world of exile in the woods after feeling defeated in life. He was frustrated, because in spite of all his hard work and effort, he was met with failure.
In the woods, the man ran into a carefree hermit, whom he shared his failure with. Feeling disappointed, he asked the hermit, “Give me one good reason not to quit?”
“Look,” the hermit said as he pointed toward an area of fern, which was beside a beautiful bamboo forest. “Do you see those fern, and the bamboo forest?”
Looking in the direction where the hermit pointed, the man nodded and replied, “Yes.”
“I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds and took good care of them every day. I nurtured them with water, light, and fertilizer,” the hermit said. “The fern flourished within a short time, whilst the bamboo seed didn’t grow an inch even though I spent years watering and nurturing it.”
In the first year, the bamboo seed showed no sign of growth despite the hermit providing the plant with water, fertile soil, and having planted it in a sunny position.
However, he didn’t give up and continued to nurture the bamboo seeds diligently.
In the second year, again, nothing emerged from the barren earth. In the third and fourth year, still, nothing happened.
Normally, one should see some activity after at least a few years … but this one was taking its sweet time.
Still and all, the hermit persisted in his endeavor to care for the bamboo … even though he couldn’t see any success.
Finally, by the fifth year, he saw a tiny sprout thrusting out from the soil. The bamboo then grew 10 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet, 40 feet, 50 feet…
Six months later, what was once a tiny sprout grew into a 100-foot-tall bamboo plant, which was surrounded by plenty more bamboo of varying lengths. A bamboo forest was underway.
There was no stopping this bamboo forest now, especially given all the new shoots that were shooting up. Moreover, the scene looked beautiful.
“Did the bamboo just suddenly grow rampantly in the fifth after four years of dormancy?” the hermit asked.
Puzzled, the man remained silent.
“The answer is quite clear. The little bamboo was germinating underground, forming a sturdy root system to support its potential outward growth in the fifth year and ahead. If the bamboo had not developed a solid and strong foundation, it wouldn’t be able to sustain its future tall structural body,” the hermit explained.
“Did you know for the years you had been struggling, you were growing strong roots too?” the hermit said, citing the example of the resilient bamboo plant.
Hearing the story from the hermit, the man learned a valuable lesson about the value of persistence and hard work.
Seeing the fern and bamboo forest before his very eyes, the man was galvanized to carry on living his life and to persevere through with his struggles so as to realize his dreams.
The bamboo patiently endured years of harsh conditions only to grow into a beautiful, far-reaching bamboo forest, providing sanctuary to much wildlife.
And like bamboo, we are actually developing our strong character as we suffer and overcome adversity, just as British writer C.S. Lewis said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
This story serves to remind us that patience and persistence do pay off.
May the story of the bamboo forest always stick with you in life. No matter what life throws at you, keep going and never give up.