Reflections on transforming environmental devastation

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Photo by Olia Nayda on Unsplash

This is a short story about environmental devastation, selfish greed, pleasurable desires, living intelligently, and taking dynamic, selfless actions.


When a recent wildfire destroyed a flower farm, the owner was devastated. The only item he saved from the fire was a large bag of sunflower seeds which he and his three employees had recently harvested.

Looking out at the blackened fields, the owner had tears in his eyes. He turned to his three employees and said, “My business is now ruined. I will need to it close down and let you all go. The only possession I have is this bag of sunflower seeds. So I will divide it into three and give one share to each of you as final severance for working here.”

The employees agreed in distress. Though they had lost their jobs, their boss had lost his property and possessions.

After wrapping the seeds in old newspaper, the employer gave one parcel to each employee.

The first employee took the seeds home and stored them in the bottom drawer of the kitchen. She thought they may come in handy in the future. Feeling tired and upset, she went to bed early that evening but couldn’t sleep as she was worried that someone would steal the seeds. Every hour or so, she got out of bed to check that they were still there.

The second employee decided to sell the seeds and hold a party. He thought that life was too short to hoard possessions. He might as well have fun while he can. With the money earned, he bought a small keg of beer and invited his friends over to help him drink it. By four the next morning, he was so drunk that he couldn’t remember his own name or his misery of losing his job the previous day.

At first, the third employee wasn’t sure what to do with the seeds. As she drove home from work, she was pondering what she should do. She knew that everything that happens presents us with a golden opportunity and it was as though she had been given the seeds as a divine gift. If she was dynamic and wise, she could change her destiny. Then an idea struck her.

Three months later, the employer rang each of the former employees and asked if he could see them. The three of them went to the abandoned flower farm.

The employer was waiting at the front gate when the first employee arrived looking anxious and upset.

 “What did you do with the seeds I gave you?” the employer demanded to know.

“I kept them in the newspaper that you gave me. I thought that the seeds would be useful in the future, but the newspaper got wet and the seeds became mouldy and spoilt.”

“Oh, I see,” the employer said to her.

When the second employee arrived, the employer asked him the same question. “What did you do with the seeds I gave you?”

“I sold them and had a great night. I can’t remember much about it now but it was fun at the time.”

“So, you didn’t keep any of them?”

“No, you said they were like a severance payment, so I spent all the money I made from selling them. Life’s too short to hang onto things.”

As the third employee arrived, the employer was beaming in delight at her. “I know what you did!”

“Me? I didn’t do anything,” she said looking surprised at her former boss.

“Come with me, and you can all see what she did!” he said.

As they walked up to the rear of the property, a mass of bright yellow sunflowers were standing tall, gently waving in the breeze as if to greet them all.

The third employee was smiling at the sight. “I planted the seeds, but Mother Nature was the one who did all of this, not me.”

“That may be true,” the employer said, “but you had the insight to see the sunflowers in the seeds, and the foresight to turn their hidden treasure into something of use for everyone.”

If we all work together in new dynamic ways, we can let go of our anxiety and greed and desire for pleasure, and transform our devastation into paradise.

Copyright © James Golding and L.A. Golding 2020


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