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Why She Waters The Trees


The start of Charlotte’s story is here.

After meeting her and finding out that if we can’t help, the fruit will go to waste, we reached out to the community. Some 350 volunteers came out to help harvest 52,000 pounds of fruit. It was an inspiring occasion. Healthy food, for people that need it, just before Thanksgiving.

Charlotte is a woman of modest means. During the summer I had several conversations with her and tried to find a buyer for some of her fruit. On one occasion we talked about the expenses of maintaining a farm that would never generate any revenues. I thought one way to save costs is to stop maintaining the trees. 

Last weekend, Charlotte invited me to go see her. As I approached her property, I dreaded what I was about to see. A dry orchard of dead trees. As I turned into her property and crossed the bridge, the vibrant orchard with trees, taller and more fruitful than last year welcomed me. What did she do?

After lunch, we walked to the orchard and I asked Charlotte, “Did you water the trees?” She smiled and said yes. When I asked her why, she answered without hesitation, “I want to do my part!” 

As we talked, I slowly began to see her simple, yet profound rational.

I don’t know how much it costs to maintain a 810-tree orchard. Let’s consider a laughable amount of one thousand dollars per year. Her calculations are simple. If she lets the farm go, then she saves the money, but 10,000 people will go without food. If she spends $1,000, then she has a highly leveraged deal. She can feed a small town for a penny per person.

On my drive home, I played with the numbers. What if it costs $10,000 per year (more realistic amount) to maintain the farm. Yes the cost of feeding a person goes up to $1, but look at the contribution she has to make to keep this going.

Then I asked myself a simple question. What if there was an all or nothing deal, that was only available to me and no one else. It would make 10,000 people happy, but it would cost me $1,000 or . Would I do it? Go ahead. Ask yourself and linger on your answer. What if it cost me $10,000. Would I do it? Would you?

We live in an individualistic culture, the rugged cowboy stuff. Kill or be killed, take or be taken. It’s a notion that is deeply embedded into our decision making process. What’s in it for me? We are very comfortable with the self-centered decision making process. So when we are faced with decisions that are for the benefit of all, we get confused, we question people’s motives, we make up reasons that supports our way of thinking. Oh she waters the trees, because it maintains her land value, because she loves trees, blah, blah, blah.

The principal of making decisions based on the “common good” dates back to Aristotle and is poached by every faith. So if you decide to come to the farm, just keep in mind that a humble woman lives in that white house who keeps the orchard alive and there is nothing in it for her.