In the world of plants, being a tree is considered to be special. Whether it’s providing shade in the heat or being a home for small animals, being a tree is considered a great honor because there are many ways they help others. When it comes to being a tree, there is no greater position than being raised to be a Christmas tree.
These trees are pampered. These trees are groomed and manicured to be as beautiful as possible because when they are ready, they are cut down and decorated to help celebrate the most wonderful time of year.
In one particular field was a tree that grew like no other. Her name was Rose, which is an unusual name for a tree, but it helped to emphasize how beautiful she was. There was no particular reason why she was so beautiful: “Perhaps her seed was planted by an angel,” said some. “Perhaps she was a star that fell from heaven,” said others. Whatever it was, Rose was magnificent … and she knew it.
Unfortunately, as with many beautiful creatures, Rose became obsessed with her appearance. The more people admired her, the more pressure she felt to be beautiful. On top of this, the more concerned she was with being beautiful, the more judgmental she became of others. It was a vicious circle that left her heart cold. She was beautiful, but this became a barrier for her.
Some of the creatures were afraid they weren’t good enough to approach her while others didn’t want to because there was nothing welcoming about her. Once a squirrel tried to climb her as he tried to escape from his predator, but Rose threw him from her branches because she didn’t want to be damaged. Rumors quickly spread and the small woodland creatures kept their distance. Even the birds avoided her and they’re bird-brained. Rose never really noticed that she was being avoided and even if she had, she wouldn’t have really cared because she was too obsessed with looking her best. Unfortunately, she was so worried about pleasing the farmers who raised her that whenever one gave another tree attention she would seethe with jealousy. She would say to herself: “You should be paying attention to me. Look at how hard I’m working and how good I look. I should be all you need to be happy.” Because of her intensity, some of the trees felt sorry for Rose, but it was agreed not to talk to her because she wasn’t a lot of fun; in fact, she could be downright mean. They would say things like: “Beware of Rose, roses always have thorns.” “Roses are red, but Rose is blue; she has the warmth of Father Winter’s snowshoe.”
As the years passed, the Christmas finally came when all of the trees in Rose’s field were to be cut down and shipped to the store to be sold. This was a magical time for these trees. The day before they were to be cut down, they had a great celebration where they said good bye to their animal and bird friends. Everyone was excited except Rose. She was still busy trying to be perfect.
All of Rose’s hard work to look perfect, however, seemed to pay off. She was given special treatment. The farmers were careful not to bend any of her branches when they cut her down and they carefully put her in a special stand all by herself. When she and her fellow trees arrived at the store, she was put out front as a way to draw in customers while the other trees were kept in the back. She looked beautiful. Everyone admired her. Everyone was amazed at how perfect she was, but no one wanted to buy her. She was beautiful, but there was something unwelcoming about her. A couple people enquired, but she was too expensive for them, so instead they bought a different tree. Each time someone chose a different tree, Rose was hurt: “Why didn’t you choose me? I’m much more beautiful than any of these other trees? What do I have to do to be good enough for you to want me?”
With each rejection, Rose’s branches drooped a little more. With each person who walked by with another tree, her needles began to sag a little more. Hours turned into days. The days turned into weeks, and soon all of the trees were bought and taken home except for Rose. Now, she was just a glimpse of her original beauty. The store was now closed for Christmas Eve, and Rose was the only one left. She was completely alone. No one had wanted to bring Rose home for Christmas. Her entire life was spent preparing for this Christmas, and now she wasn’t going to be able to celebrate it the way she was supposed to.
Rose was confused and in a state that was somewhere between sad and angry: “What do I have to do to be good enough for people? I tried so hard to be the most beautiful tree anyone has seen and here I am, alone. What more could I have done?” Rose’s part anger began to settle into full blown sadness and she began to weep tears of sap, which ran down her trunk. Her needles fell and her branches drooped like wet hair. She didn’t have any idea how long she had been in this state when a car pulled up beside her. It was an older car that, among other things, was in need of a new muffler. This car looked quite the opposite of the beauty Rose once had. In her earlier days she would’ve snubbed her nose at it and made fun of whoever drove it, but she was so desperate for company that she didn’t even mind the puff of black smoke the tailpipe shot out when the car was turned off.
Rose heard the car door quietly open and close. Then, a woman in an outfit that matched the car came out and stood in front of Rose. Rose was suddenly aware of how droopy her branches now looked and how saggy her needles were. She was embarrassed, but there was nothing she could do. This was her. Slowly Rose looked at the woman’s face afraid to see the disappointment in her eyes because Rose was the only tree left. Instead, however, the woman had tears in her eyes. The woman wasn’t sad; the tears were for another reason. The woman looked up and down Rose and a smile grew on her face as she whispered: “You’re perfect.”
With that the woman pulled a box out of her trunk and began to decorate the tree. They were a mix of ornaments. Nothing like the fancy decorations you see on the trees in the stores. There were paper chains, old toys with hooks in them, and ornaments so old they were likely tossed out by other more affluent people. These were obviously ornaments the woman had gathered and made. They were nothing like the ones Rose imagined would be hung on her branches… and yet they were beautiful. They were better than beautiful; they were perfect. And with each ornament the woman put on the tree, Rose regained a little more strength. By the time the woman was done putting on all of the decorations, Rose had regained her original brilliance, but this time she was covered in homemade and gathered decorations.
In the morning the backdoor of the car opened to reveal two young children. They had been sleeping in the car while their mom worked to set things up. The children quickly jumped out of the car and screamed with joy when they saw the tree. It was magnificent: “Mom, Santa was here,” they cheered. Under the tree were several presents wrapped in newspaper and homemade bows. The kids bounced around and soon began to dance around the tree and sing: “Oh Christmas Tree.” With heavy bags under her eyes, their mom emerged from the car after her long night of work. Rose could tell the woman was exhausted, but she was happy as she saw how excited her children were and she beamed when they hugged her.
Rose had never seen anything like this before. This family clearly didn’t have a lot. They lived in an old car and wore old clothes, but they were the most beautiful people Rose had ever seen.
In that moment something changed in Rose. She realized that life isn’t about being good enough, it’s about loving enough.
Rose had missed this. This time Rose felt tears of sap slide down her trunk because she was so full of joy. This was what Rose had longed for, but didn’t know how to get. Suddenly Rose felt a weight on her one branch, and then another, and another, and another. There was a strange digging into her trunk. Birds were landing on her branches. Small creatures were climbing up her trunk to sit in the tree. Soon Rose was bursting with creatures wanting to be close to her because she was so warm. She had never experienced this before and it felt right. The family who were once hugging were now staring in amazement at the tree. They had never seen anything like this before. No one had. This truly was a magical tree.
Over the next few days Rose, like many other trees, were taken down and dropped off at parks for their final resting place. As Rose lived her remaining days lying on her side in a field crammed with other trees, she had never been happier. She now understood what the other trees had talked about and she was now able to join in the sharing of their Christmas stories. Everyone was happy, but no tree was as happy as Rose as she was now glistening with love and joy. Birds bumped into each other in order to have a chance to rest on her branches while animals fought to use her as their home because she was so warm. Once again, Rose was the most beautiful tree in the field, but this time her beauty was real. This time her beauty was from her love, and that made all the difference. The end.
May this Christmas season bring you joy and peace rather than guilt and stress.
Chad Tomlinson, MTS, MEd, MA, Rev, is an award winning therapist and published author who writes weekly blogs as a way to share the lessons he learns and is reminded of because we are all on a journey. He is a big fan of the power of humor (when appropriate) because he believes it helps people see the good in life, which adds to the healing.
Image courtesy of Jeswin Thomas.