Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tomato Teaching for Today

A tomato plant wilts alone.

When a tomato plant starts to grow it doesn’t look like it needs support but as tomatoes begin to form and get larger, they begin to weigh down the vine. As this happens, a stake is needed. The stake, hammered deep into the soil is tied to the vine so it doesn’t break under the weight of the maturing tomatoes.

The stake has an important role and one it does well. Another plant could not fill that role, only a stake will do. If another vegetable plant (I know tomatoes are technically fruit but I still think of them as veggies) like say, a squash, tried to hold up the tomato vine, it wouldn’t work. The strong, rigid and firmly planted stake is the best one for the job.

This daydream dialogue came to me during a staff meeting at work today. The VP of my department was trying ever so vaguely to answer a question asked of her. One of my co-workers wanted to know what the role of the department is now that the corporation is in the midst of downsizing and restructuring.

The tomato train of thought led me to ask myself, ‘What is my role?’ Not only at work but also in life overall. I knew the answer at the moment the question bounced in.

I’m not the keynote speaker or the head of state. I’m not the CEO or the mascot. I’m not the logo or the slogan. I’m behind the scenes. I’m the 2 by 4 behind the sheet rock. I am the stake tied to the tomato plant.

When I am aware of my role and begin to understand it then another piece of my identity is discovered and freedom to be who I am takes another step forward. Knowing where to fit is guided by knowing my role. I don’t have to dart from here to there like a pinball seeking a divot to fall into. I can be at peace and confident knowing that I will become more of who I am if I stick to the role that I was made for.

So, in my occupation, in my friendships, family and other relationships, I thrive when I am standing alongside others in a supportive role. And when I remember my own role, I can be of assistance to others in theirs. The bottom line is that every role is necessary.

We can’t do it alone.

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