Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leafage and Rootage

American President Woodrow Wilson once pointed out that “a man’s rootage is more important than his leafage.” What others see are the leaves, the outside. What they can’t see are the roots, the values and principles that ground a person. A happy and fulfilled life grows from a good system of roots.

No one believed in the solid “rootage” of President Jimmy Carter more than his own mother “Miss Lillian,” as she was fondly called. For one thing, she was aware of her son’s reputation for honesty, which had become a topic of curiosity among many politicians and even reporters. During a 1986 speech at the University of Tennessee, Press Secretary Jody Powell told a story about a television reporter who grilled Miss Lillian on this topic.

“Is it true,” asked the reporter, “that your son doesn’t lie? Can you tell me he has never told a lie?”

“Well, I reckon he might have told a little white lie now and then,” replied Miss Lillian.

The reporter spotted the opening. “I thought you said he didn’t lie!” she exclaimed. “Are you telling me that white lies aren’t as bad as black lies? Just what do you mean by a white lie?”

“Well,” drawled Miss Lillian, “do you remember when you came in this morning and I told you how nice you looked and how glad I was to see you...?”

She got the point.

Those people who care about strong and principled inner lives leave an important mark on the world. They actually live from the inside out. Their inner convictions guide their actions. Their inner principles govern their lives. It’s like roots which are sunk deep into lasting values and sustain the tree through whatever hard times may come along.

What does it mean to have good roots? I think it means to be strong enough and healthy enough to do whatever you truly want to do. It means to be strong enough, at least most of the time, to give your best to the world.

I would like to have roots that grow deep and strong. I would like a system of roots that could give me:

  • enough strength to forgive those who hurt me;
  • enough confidence to overcome any amount of fear;
  • enough courage to accept whatever obstacles life throws my way;
  • enough compassion to love even the unlovable;
  • enough faith that nothing can shatter my peace of mind.

I believe that if I grow good roots, I won’t need to worry about the leafage.

-- Steve Goodier

Image: flickr.com/Michael Levine-Clark

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