The owner and the gardener approached the fig tree. It was barren. It stood out from the others that were lush with fruit and green leaves. Their trunks flush brown and soil moist. They appeared to beg permission to produce more fruit. The owner of the vineyard shook his head in disgust,
“For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none.” He stared one last time then turned towards the gardener, “Cut it down. Why should I exhaust the soil?”
The gardener gazed with compassion at the owner. The fig tree was an anomaly but he was not ready to give up. He placed a reassuring hand on the owner’s shoulder, “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it.”
“You’ve tried for three years and nothing. It is futile.”
“It may bear fruit in the future.” He could see the owner was not convinced. “If not you can cut it down.”
The owner was genuinely upset that it was not responding to all the good work done so far. But he was reluctant to be too harsh and had faith in the one he sent. He nodded and responded quietly, “As you wish.” He continued through the vineyard to observe the rest of the crop, occasionally bending down to root up a weed that had grown alongside the plants.
The gardener stooped down and removed the topsoil layer by layer. It was dry and crumbled with each tug. The cracked roots snarled reproaching the sunlight. The bugs had over time gnawed away at the soul of the tree and of the soil leaving no ability to drink from the fresh water provided daily. He knew he had to do something different.
He surveyed the grounds, at the hundred other trees that had benefitted from the water and food provided in the soil. Then he had an idea. The gardener went to the trees in close proximity and scooped a healthy quantity of soil from around their skirt and placed it carefully around the roots and trunk of the barren one. It was possible the roots would respond well with help from the neighboring trees who have benefited from the routine regimen. The gardener lastly added additional water to compact the soil and then he departed back to the house. He would return daily and continue to supplement the tree from the remaining trees in the vineyard until the year was out. Surely it would respond to this kind of support. Three years had been a long time to buy. He was not too sure how he could persuade for an additional year. The sacrifice on his part would have to be great to convince the owner of the vineyard to save it.
It is never too late to bear fruit. Similarly for those that do bear fruit, it is important to lift up those that struggle.