I collected acorns from an early age. The adage, “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow!” spurred my boyhood imagination. I mused on the little nut’s pregnant potential, on the idea that everything it could ever become was contained in this little shell in the palm of my hand. Later, when I realized they have to let go their protective “caps” before they can even begin to grow, my interest in botany was born.
My love of acorns and oaks stayed with me, and the metaphor they provided may have inspired my career in human development and life potential.
We’re taught to think of “potential” as something for young people to realize. For people in middle age, our culture abets “over-the-hill” and “coasting” attitudes rather than encouraging personal reinvention scenarios. And finally, “retirement” memes abound that challenge any notion of our “acorn-ness.”
But what I’ve learned over these many years working in the field is that we never really “arrive” … that the oak continues to reach. As we mature, growth opportunities shift emphasis from physical, to intellectual, to emotional & spiritual, but they always exist. We need never “coast” or “retire.” If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we have work to do to become “fully human.”
No matter our age, all potential is realized little by little, in daily increments, one challenge at a time. It does not happen automatically. Like the acorn, we have to move out of a protective comfort zone, let go of something so we can grow on.
Eleanor Roosevelt wisely advised, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I suspect she was speaking from personal experience.
Adapted from a talk at the Universalist-Unitarian church, 2/25/18
by Joe Mc Kay