HomeempowermentGrowth Lessons from Nature

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a fascination with nature. If given the choice of playing games with a group of kids or hunting for fossils, you bet I’d choose the fossils every time. That interest hasn’t gone away, but today I made a few connections between the plants growing in my yard to the academic development of kids in schools.

People who learn and think differently usually end up going through milestones at different rates than growth charts say they should. If they’re gifted, they accomplish things sooner than most people, while if they’re classified as disabled, they succeed later, or not at all. This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but it’s the reaction they get that can be harmful.

As I puttered through my spring routine of cleaning up my garden beds and our yard, I happened to notice the huge variation of plant development.

Depending on where you live, you may recognize this little plant.

Those are some soft leaves.

It grows in yards, road sides and fields. After a little research, I was surprised to discover this is what common mullein looks like in its first year. It’s small, somewhat unremarkable, and stubborn as all get out. If left undisturbed until its second year, it’ll sprout a stalk of lovely yellow flowers. It’s one of those plants that seems to grow everywhere, and is usually viewed as a weed. However, it has value as a tea for respiratory problems, in addition to encouraging honey bee and butterfly populations.

It reminds me of those of us who were classified as being “slow” or “late bloomers”. A lot of these kids are just as unassuming as this little plants, and just as easily mowed down. If given enough time, though, they have countless gifts to give.

On the other hand, we have flowers that bloom in spring.

One of my Grape Hyacinth plants.

I’d planted quite a few of these bulbs several years ago. Although the last of our snow only melted the week before last, these pretty little plants are already getting ready to bloom. They end up being very pretty, divide on their own, and sometimes bloom in the early Fall, as well. Some species have been used medicinally as diuretics and stimulants.

These are a little like the kids who are considered “normal”. They need attention, just like everyone else, but they meet their benchmarks right on schedule. Does that make their gifts any less valuable than those who bloom late? No, not at all. Does that make them better? That’s not the case, either. Their flowers may show up sooner, but they’re just as pretty.

When the summer’s long enough for them to bloom twice, they can also represent gifted kids. Our culture tends to glorify these students’ accomplishments, and in many cases it’s justified, but the struggles of these folks tends to get lost. Many schools can’t keep up with these kids’ progress, and the parents must fight just as hard to keep them challenged as LD parents need to for accommodations.

Just as a short summer can cut the life short of some of these flowers, an inadequate school program can cut these kids’ potentials short. They also need unique attention and must be guided when they hit their brutal winters in life.

Russian Sage.

The last plant I took a picture of is one of my favorites: Russian Sage. This plant will grow the prettiest long branches with lacy leaves and purple flowers. It’s another hearty herb, which is part of why I chose to plant it, but it’s very slow to blossom.

While other plants already have their leaves fully unfurled and some are already flowering, this one still looks dead. At first glance, it just appears to be a mass of sleeping branches, but when you look closer, you can see tiny white buds. This particular plant bloomed the first year I had it, as it did over subsequent summers, but it’s always been a late spring starter.

It already has a bit of the intoxicating aroma, and that will only increase as it grows. Its leaves have been used on a spiritual level to energetically cleanse an area, and I believe it can be used in cooking as well. I know from experience that it works wonderfully in crafts, too.

I tend to equate this one to the kids who seem to make absolutely no progress at first. Like mullein, they’re looked over, but there aren’t even leaves to encourage further effort. The thing is, when these kids finally understand what they’re trying to learn, it’ll come in one shot. All of the sudden, they just get it, and they go strong from there, especially if given the right environment.

When it comes to human development, growth rates and individual situations are just as diverse as the plants out there.

Those who take longer than the majority are too often discarded and put down.

Those who go at just the right pace may have their issues overlooked because they’re doing “ok”.

Those who excel at something may be celebrated, but the challenges that come with their giftedness get ignored. Too many people equate success in one area to success in all areas.

Just like in these plants, we all have gifts to give, even though they may show up at different times in our lives. Before jumping to conclusions about someone’s progress, remember they have a deeper story to tell.

If possible, please listen to that story without judgement.


Growth Lessons from Nature — 4 Comments

  1. This is a beautiful and insightful analogy. This world would be a much better place if we understood and accepted the uniqueness of each individual person.


  2. Thank you!

    I agree with you completely. The most we as individuals can do is try incorporating that idea into our own lives, so I guess that means we'd be changing the world a tiny bit at a time, right?

  3. 'People' seem to be uncomfortable with differences and like sameness. It takes consciousness appreciate our uniqueness. Thanks for this post.

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