Opinion: Hope and leaves grow back

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A little less than a year ago, my sister-in-law gave me a fiddle leaf fig tree for my birthday and I was stoked. I always admired them at garden stores and had been wanting one for my house for some time. I found an unexpected lesson in watching it over the past year. (Megan Zaugg)

A little less than a year ago, my sister-in-law gave me a fiddle leaf fig tree for my birthday and I was stoked. I always admired them at garden stores and had been wanting one for my house for some time. I knew they had the potential to grow over six feet tall and live for 25 to 50 years.

I had owned a few little plants here and there before, but they usually died soon after I bought them. I have the opposite of a green thumb, whatever that is. This time however, I promised myself I’d keep my little tree alive.

When she gave me the tree, it had plenty of lush green leaves and seemed keen on growing. “Perfect,” I thought to myself. It appeared to be relatively low-maintenance. After all, trees grow by themselves in the wild all the time, right? (Plant lovers and experts are already laughing at me.)

A little less than a year ago, my sister-in-law gave me a fiddle leaf fig tree for my birthday and I was stoked. I always admired them at garden stores and had been wanting one for my house for some time. I knew they had the potential to grow over six feet tall and live for 25 to 50 years. (Megan Zaugg)

Actually, for the first few months it did pretty well. I just periodically watered it whenever I thought of it and not much changed until winter rolled around.

One morning, I noticed leaves had started falling off in bunches. What did that even mean? Was it dying? Did it just shed leaves because it was winter? I truly had no idea. Worried, I asked everyone if my plant was done for. Most responded saying, “That’s relatively normal, just keep an eye on it.”

So I did. Pretty soon a few new leaves grew back in their place and I was content for a while until the leaves started to lose their shine and fall off again.

Maybe it needed to be re-potted? I went to Target and bought a nice, larger pot that I figured the tree would like. I transferred it, added new soil and watered it, hoping it would immediately be thrilled and grow 7 feet over night.

Much to my dismay, all but one of the leaves fell off.

“Now I’ve really killed it,” I thought to myself. Once again I reached out to all the plant experts I knew and they reminded me to be patient and said the leaves would eventually grow back. Apparently, fiddle leaf figs are known for being a little dramatic. I can relate.

Deep down I doubted it would survive. Every plant I had before my tree had died. Every morning I glanced at the little one-leaf wonder and lost hope that it would keep growing. My husband encouraged me to leave it in the pot, “It’ll grow back,” he said faithfully. I wasn’t sure I had the patience to wait for it to grow back, which maybe was a metaphor.

Loss of leaves, loss of hope

As the months rolled on, I seemed to lack hope in more areas than my little tree. As a journalist, I spend a lot of time immersed in current events. As many of you probably know, a lot of those can be heavy and hard to learn about: wars, betrayal, death and disease. It’s the name of the game with journalism and I love the profession so I carry on with the hard stuff, but it doesn’t make it easier to ingest daily.

I had also experienced a few personal disappointments as well and was left feeling a little jaded.

I looked at that last little leaf clutching to the fiddle leaf fig and felt the same.

I’m a religious individual, so I started wondering what the purpose behind the chaos and pain in the world was. I knew there was a purpose for it —it was just getting hard to see.

I believe this life is a growing opportunity. We experience challenges, learn more and become better versions of ourselves. I also believe some relief from difficulty won’t come until much later. However, in the middle of this whirlwind of world chaos, I felt maybe none of it would come until later.

Most days I felt like God could help me, but I often wondered if He wanted to.

One night I was talking to my husband about some of my feelings. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does suffering last so long? Why is there so much pain in the world? Why am I so helpless to combat any of it?

Why do I feel so hopeless?

Half-way through the discussion, my husband paused mid-sentence and said, “Megan, look at your tree!”

At first I didn’t see anything. Just the same twiggy branch posing sadly in the pot. I looked closer and saw the tiniest little burst of green sprouting out of the top of the tree: A new leaf was growing.

I actually laughed —there was something ironic about discussing hopelessness and worry the same night my despondent little tree decided to sprout a new leaf. Then I started thinking about it a little more.

It didn’t feel so much like a sign from God as it did an invitation from Him. Like He was reaching out His hand and saying “Yes, leaves do grow back, and yes, I am still here. Please keep trying.”

So I did keep trying; I made some humble changes to my prayers and started incorporating other things into my life that I knew would help.

It grows back

Now, I don’t tell you this story to make you think that everything miraculously changed overnight. Pain still exists, disappointment still exists. Good people still go through bad things, loss is still very real and I still spend a large portion of the day learning all about it. But good people also do amazing things, bad people change and God’s hand is still outstretched to anybody who needs it —which is all of us.

My personal miracle was that I felt like my heart was finally changing. A subtle, yet familiar inkling of hope returned and I had missed it.

What I can tell you is that yes, leaves do grow back… and so does hope.

–Megan Zaugg

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