I stood in a coffee field today, in the back-yard of a small-stake farmer named Ernesto. I walked through his garage, past his bright blue “camion” to get there. Past his son, his grand-daughters, his daughter-in-law, his wife. Past his house-plants, his patio; the man’s whole life.
As I was nestled deep amongst the coffee trees, I engaged in another conversation with Orlando, half my broken Spanish, half his broken English. It amazes me how much two people can communicate on halves; a miracle, really. This time, he pulled back a tree and kneeled down into the dirt, and summoned me to follow.
He carefully brushed back the top soil around the base of the plant and began to explain to me about the root system of the coffee plant. He pointed to the white roots, referencing that this indicates they are healthy and active; able to take up the nutrients that they are fed.
“It is unbelievable,” he tells me in Spanish, “I have talked with farmers who have been in this business for 10, 20, 30 years or more, and they have never looked at the roots of their coffee plants. You see, it doesn’t matter how much you fertilize, if your plants don’t have healthy, active roots that can actually take up the nutrients. They don’t know this, they don’t realize. For 30 years or more they only look at the leaves, at the top of the plants, above the ground.”
I nod and indicate my understanding as he explains, actively listening and reflecting back to him my understanding of what he is saying with incorrectly conjugated verbs and a much simpler Spanish vocabulary. He lights up and smiles, and I know I have understood correctly.
I begin to process it all. Decades and decades of farming knowledge…and they’ve never looked at the roots?
How often, I wonder, do we do this in life? Do we overlook the root systems of our lives, or families, our work, ourselves? How often do we fail to see the whole picture? To nurture ourselves below the ground? What nourishment are we missing out on in our lives, because we have failed to cultivate the health of our own root systems?
It made me remember just how easy it is to get lost in our own worlds. How easy it is to be stuck within our own mindsets, our own traditions. And without the proper support, without that third party, that person to push us and expand us and help us see, we will never notice.
It made me remember, just how much power, how much potential, each of us holds to change the life of another, to help them see something differently so that they can grow.
Did you hear me?
Each of us holds the power to change the life of another; to help them see something differently so that they can grow.
Now get out there and change someones life. And while you’re at it, don’t forget the roots…