Trey Campbell is a leading authority on utilizing biblically-based principles to help leaders and salespeople expand their influence.

The Cycle of Life: From Familiar to Change to Familiar Again

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”

—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Holmes’s words speak volumes for the importance of listening. We all have people in our lives who share their wisdom. It’s when we listen that we truly experience the rewards their words offer.

While in Mexico searching for places and people to serve for a corporate service project, I came across a man who told me a parable I won’t soon forget. (And did I mention it was in Spanish?)

Roughly translated, he said:

“Life is like a tree that had been changed by the force of a hurricane. You come to see a tree as you know it. Then, after a hurricane, you see it broken into pieces, a much weaker version of its former self. As time passes, you come to be familiar with the tree as it is again. It grows back and gains strength. While different than before, it becomes familiar once again.”

This man, affectionately known in his Mayan community as “Chano,” told me this in reference to his own life. Chano said he used to be on drugs and grew up poor in the Mayan town of Leona Vicario, a town that can only be described as both bustling and languid at the same time.

Chano lived quite the life—more for himself than for others. And while he may have wanted to give up on himself sometimes, he has worked hard to turn everything around. Chano found God and sought after all things worth living for. He takes pride in his village and the rich history of his Mayan ancestry. Chano has a heart for his people and a heart for giving back. He is a Delegate of Leona Vicario. With this title comes the responsibility of serving his community by matching needs to resources.

Chano took me to several places in town. As he introduced me to a Mayan lady in her 80s named Cornelia, I looked her in the eyes. I could see she was tired, having lived a long life in poverty. Her tired bones were sunk down in her hammock which doubled as her bed and chair. Chano showed me around her home, a stick hut. Her roof of palm branches was tattered, disheveled, and way past its prime. Rain gushed through each time a storm passed through.

As I surveyed the situation, I thought about Chano’s tree parable. I wondered what the hut looked like so many generations ago when it was built. I wondered if Cornelia had seen it change time and time again, but to her, after each change, it had become familiar again. Just like the tree Chano spoke of, this hut had no doubt changed over time. And it would change again within the week, but not by a storm this time. I made sure Cornelia would no longer have to shelter from the weather invading her home. As we told Cornelia she would be getting a new roof, she turned and looked away, almost in disgust.

Chano apologized saying she did not believe us. And why would she? I was a gringo out of place in that town, much like Christmas lights in July. Besides, she probably had been promised things before that never materialized. I understood. Cornelia saw her home as it was—just like that tree broken into pieces—a much weaker version of itself. She was familiar with her situation and had come to accept it, not expecting change.

Isn’t that what happens to us? Within the week, Cornelia’s view of her home changed, but over time it will become familiar to her again. Things and people come and go in and out of our lives. No matter what happens, we will be ok. The unrecognizable can once again become the familiar. I hope Cornelia will be happy with the new roof. But more importantly, she and Chano taught me a wise life lesson.

Where ever I find myself, the surroundings never pull at my heart as much as the people do. Thank you Chano and Cornelia for helping me realize change is good.

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