"A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up, it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams", Mark 4:3-8.
Such is one account of the Parable of the Sower contained in the New Testament. This story, told by Jesus, represents a vivid word picture of his teaching and how it is grasped or individualized by those that hear it. It's a story that can find application in our interactions with others, especially when those interactions place us firmly in the role of teacher or leader. Foremost in my mind is my role as a father to my young daughter, but it was equally relevant in my previous position as a University professor.
I spread the word to my charges. Some of what I tried to get across quickly met with head nodding and words of understanding, but was very quickly forgotten. Some of my lessons and advice were viewed as useful and relevant, and were then taken to heart, but only for a time before they became too onerous or too much at odds with existing habits or required too much effort for a lazing approach. Others things that I shared became a part of who they were and may stay with them for a lifetime.
What can be particularly rewarding is when we recognize a lesson that we have shared or taught bearing fruit in a person's life long after our initial interaction. However, all too often, I am left wondering what has become of the seeds that I have scattered. Have they taken deep root or have they withered away? Sometimes it seems that the only way to truly know is to wait and see. This is a particularly frustrating approach for the impatient soul, like myself. For only if I realize that I am not doing something in the most optimal manner can I know to try a different approach. Sometimes the best we can do is our best, and then trust that our lessons will be heard, understood, and sit on fertile soil.