Papa's Lesson

She had watched the village grownups go herb gathering all her life. They would disappear into the dense forests in the early morning mists with empty rattan baskets on their backs and return later in the evening with peculiar roots and strange smelling leaves. These were the herbs, the treasures of the mountain that had sustained her village through generations. The rich city foreigners came regularly to buy the herbs from her village, each time complaining incessantly of the dirt and grime, of the mud and water which bore the fruits they paid high prices for.

It was on her ninth birthday when Papa decided to show her the treasures of the Mountain. She remembered herself swelling up with pride when she first joined others in herb gathering. As she doubled her pace to keep up, papa told her, "Understand the Mountain. Follow its trails and be observant." So she looked around, memorizing nature's map, where an old birch tree marked a left turn and a flowing river signified the start of the treasure ground. She observed how large black ants cooperated with one another, and watched frogs for signs of imminent rain. She took hints from the curvature of the land and built a strong friendship with the mountain and its friends. 

When Papa saw she had grown akin to the land, he taught her more. "Learn to judge a ripened fruit," he said, "Haste will destroy all hard work. Better to be patient and persevere." So the girl tagged along behind the best herb gatherers, watching their seasoned hands push apart the weeds and with one swift but gentle motion, extract a ripened herb. Then she saw how the gatherers placed a few seeds where the herb once was and put back the soil. It was their way of repaying the mountain for its kindness. And at times when the mountain bore no sign of mature herbs, the gatherers persevered deeper into the forest and higher up the trails, until their patience and hard work were rewarded. The girl grew to love the mountain.

But as time went by, the greedy city folks demanded more and more from the generous mountain, leaving little to sustain the village folks. So the girl left for the city where she took a short course on the art of selling and became a property agent. Her colleagues advised her to be aggressive, to compete with the rival company and succeed in the property field by destroying her competitors. Inevitably, the girl felt lost in this new world, where "the big fish eats the small fish." Each time she found a potential customer, each time she found herself losing them and searching again. One month passed and she had not sold a single property.

Shattered, she thought of the mountain again. The memories of herb gathering, of the trees and rivers and frogs, and of her papa comforted her tremendously. Then, as if a nine-year-old child again, she heard her papa's voice saying, "Be patient and persevere." And just like before, those words gave her courage and she began to work at her job once more.

"Understand the mountain. Follow its trails and be observant." The mountain girl read up on the property market, on the success stories of property agents before her, and on the pros and cons of different property locations. She dug deep into the workings of the market and even read up on consumer behavior. She followed market trends closely and kept an alert eye on properties on sale. Instead of being aggressive, she worked behind the scenes, doing research on prospective customers and available properties.

"Be patient, persevere. Learn to judge the ripened fruit." The girl saw how some customers deliberately postponed the signing of contracts and how they acted as though they were being cheated. She was patient with these difficult customers, always amiable and never threatening. Her sensitivity, sureness, and stunning way with words eventually persuaded these customers to make commitments. The girl also observed how desperate some house owners were, how they must be in financial difficulty and willing to sell their house more easily. She also noticed the impatient nature of some customers and made sure appointments were made so that all parties were on time. She learned to pinpoint satisfaction found on a customer's face and then, at the most opportune times, offer a price and close a deal.

In her second month as a property agent, the mountain girl sold more than ten properties and became the top agent in the company. Her colleagues were surprised and her boss called her into his office and told her, "I don't know how you do it, but your methods work." Deep in her heart she knew. It was her upbringing up on the mountain, among friends, among nature; the lessons she learned when she joined papa and the rest of the village in herb gathering. They were part of her now ingrained deep within the recesses of her soul. This was timeless advice that papa had given her and it remained with her long after he left this world.

The day she received her first paycheck and congratulations from her boss and colleagues, she thought of the mountain again. She remembered her papa's words before she left for the city. He told her, "You are a mountain girl, remember that always. You are born a survivor. Strive to be self-sufficient, but never become complacent. See how majestic the mountain is, and yet she does not forsake those lesser than her. She has provided for our village for many generations now, and has given her trees and herbs and water to the city folks. They do not appreciate her kindness and have come to take away her virginity and beauty. But someday, someday much too late, they will finally see the mountain as she is - a living part of nature, just like themselves. By then, the mountain will be bare. Yet her overpowering spirit will remain and her commanding presence in the world will serve as a poignant reminder that man cannot conquer the mountain - man can only live together with the mountain if he understands and respects the wisdom of nature." 

The mountain girl knows what she must do. She continues to succeed as a property agent through sheer hard work and shares her knowledge with her colleagues. In her spare time, she dedicates herself to "Saving the Environment" by educating the public on the fragility of the ecosystem and the importance of understanding the growth and recovery of nature. As a property agent, she knows that there is an increasing need for living space as the world's population continues to multiply. But as a mountain girl, who has lived in the heart of nature, she also understands that people should take from nature in moderation. Just as the herb gatherers plant new seeds and replace overturned soil, so must society continue in reforestation, to ensure the survival of nature and man himself.

Years later, a little girl drew a picture of a majestic mountain in an art class. It was "Environment Week" at school and the art teacher wanted her students to draw what they treasured most in nature. The little girl ran home happily with the "A" grade drawing in her hands and showed it to her mother. "Mama! It's your mountain!"

The mountain girl smiled. Yes indeed. It was mountains forever. 

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