A long time ago, there lived a tall and mighty tree in a big jungle. The tree was named Big Tree. Big Tree always stood erect and tall and looked down upon the smaller trees. Yes, Big Tree was quite arrogant.
When the wind blew hard, Big Tree would stand upright and tall. His trunk and branches would stay firm and wouldn’t sway by even an inch. The wind could only make Big Tree’s driest leaves fall down. Big Tree would feel proud and boast, “I am the tallest and mightiest tree in this jungle. The other trees should make me their king. My branches are thick and strong and my roots are spread wide and deep. Yes, I should be made a king.
Small Tree was a smaller tree who grew right next to Big Tree. Small Tree was very thin and weak in comparison. When the wind blew hard, Small Tree’s trunk would sway to and fro.
Big Tree would watch this happen. One day, he looked and Small Tree and said, “Small Tree, you really are weak. You must grow up soon. I feel very sorry for you when the wind makes your trunk sway.” Small Tree listened patiently and said, “Don’t worry, Big Tree. A time will come when I too will grow big and mighty like you.”
Big Tree laughed. “Little one, I pity you,” Big Tree said proudly. “Look at how great I am! I help people by giving them shade on sunny days! And there are birds, animals and insects that have built their homes on me! I am very, very important.”
“Well, you are right, Big Tree,” Small Tree agreed. “You are always doing something worthwhile. But I am sure that someday I will be able to help others, just like you do.”
“I will be very happy for you then,” Big Tree said. “You must stand erect then. You must spread your roots deep and far and raise your head high in the air, just like I do.” Small Tree smiled and thought, “I am in no hurry to grow up. I am happy with the way I am right now!” Small Tree enjoyed the rain and the warm air. He had no idea that they were slowly helping him grow. Big Tree grew bigger with time too. But sadly, he became more and more arrogant.
Every day, Big Tree would tease Small Tree and ask him to grow faster. Small Tree on the other hand, would simply smile. One day, when the two trees were talking, Big Tree suddenly said, “Small Tree, you really are of no use to anyone.”
“Why are you saying that, Big Tree?” Small Tree asked, feeling quite hurt.
“No one comes to you for shade. And no creature lives or plays on you. Look at me! There are squirrels running all over me! I am sorry to say but you are quite worthless.” Big Tree said haughtily. Small Tree felt bad but didn’t utter a word.
“One day, I will be of use to someone too,” Small Tree thought everyday as he drank the water from the earth. “One day, people will flock to me for my shelter and shade! Creatures will live and play on me too!” he thought as he made his food with his leaves in the sunshine. Then on, Small Tree ignored the harsh things Big Tree said and concentrated on growing.
All, the other trees in the jungle were growing quickly. “I’m lagging far behind,”
Small Tree realised. “For some reason, I’m taking very long to grow!”
A day came when the other trees in the jungle outgrew Small Tree. They looked far taller and stronger and covered Small Tree completely. But Small Tree didn’t mind. “I’ll grow slowly and steadily,” he thought and kept himself happy. The seasons changed and the trees around Small Tree kept on growing. Small Tree couldn’t even see how tall the others were, but he was still happy for them.
One night, a thunder storm hit the jungle. The wind howled and blew fiercely. Many strong trees found themselves falling down. Some others were uprooted. Many big trees found that their branches were being broken by the wind. There was panic and disappointment everywhere.
Small Tree on the other hand, found that he was still firmly rooted to the ground. His trunk was swaying wildly in the wind but his branches were still too small for the powerful wind to break.
The next day, the sun rose early in the morning. Its very first rays touched Small Tree since there were very few tall trees around now. The sun’s warmth made Small Tree wake up and smile. He felt very happy to be alive. Small Tree realised that his fortune was going to change for the better.
As time passed by, many tall trees kept falling down. But Small Tree grew slowly and steadily in the sunlight. Big Tree was now old and weak. He was no longer erect or arrogant.
One day, Big Tree sadly told Small Tree, “I am old now. I have become useless. Birds don’t make nests on my branches anymore as they fear that my branches will fall down. All my leaves have fallen off and no one comes to me for shade. The squirrels too prefer to skip on you as they find your bark smoother than mine.”
Big Tree then began sobbing uncontrollably.
“Big Tree,” Small Tree consoled his old friend. “Being old doesn’t mean that you are useless. You are still of great worth to me. You guided me when I was growing up. The knowledge you gave me is priceless. And it’s amazing that you are still standing with me, while all the other trees have fallen down.”
“Is that true?” Big Tree asked. “I must say, that you have been very kind to me. The seasons have changed many times and many years have passed. You have remained a true friend all along. While I lost my other friends, you stood by me and made the life of an old tree happy.”
“What I did was my duty towards you, Big Tree!” Small Tree said softly. “You appreciate my friendship and that is my biggest reward!” By now Big Tree had realised that the smaller trees were unnecessarily ridiculed by the bigger trees for not growing as quickly. He felt sorry for all that he had said to Small Tree.
And then, a day came when like the other big trees, Big Tree too fell down on the ground.
Small Tree felt bad for his old friend. He would miss him. But he also knew that a day would surely come when he would become bigger and taller. The birds, animals and insects would make homes on him then. And people would come seeking his shade. Small Tree knew he would become useful for everyone, just like his old friend.