The Parable of the Lemon Seed

If ever there was a time to make lemonade out of lemons, it is now.

But where to start? It’s small, simple acts that take the circumstances we are given and flip the expected outcome on its head. This is exactly the story of Keki and the Lemon Seed, a true, modern day parable. Never heard of it? That makes sense because it has never before been told. But here it is:

There once was a woman named Keki. She lived in Hawai’i, where her work required her to fly between the islands regularly (back in the day when that was possible). In those 20 minute puddle jumps the airlines attempted to quickly serve beverages between take off and landing. The cabin crew would roll their carts down the aisle passing out drinks in little plastic cups to each of the passengers and then hurriedly collecting them and any other trash before landing. This was true all day long, every day, on the little flights that hopped between each Hawai’ian island.

As a series of islands, Hawai’ians tend to be extra careful about their environmental impact. And, yet, this standard way of operating persisted. Keki typically just said no thank you to the cabin crew and brought her own, re-useable water bottle. But one day she forgot her water bottle and was incredibly thirsty so she resorted to the only option available: to take the airline plastic cup.

This bothered her – A LOT. As she sipped her airline water, she thought about what she could do to ameliorate the fate of the single-use plastic she was holding in her hand. She didn’t have a lot of time to think since it was such a short flight, but as the cabin crew came around to collect everyone’s trash, Keki held onto her cup and the lemon slice inside it. When she got home, Keki filled the plastic cup with soil and buried one of the lemon seeds deep within it. She then placed the little airline cup in a sunny window. Within days, a sprout had pushed through the soil, the budding of a lemon tree.

Keki’s was a simple gesture, and also an incredibly authentic and refreshing one. Keki repurposed a tiny plastic cup that would have gone straight to a landfill into something beautiful and alive. She didn’t exactly make lemonade out of lemons, but she did make lemons out of landfill.

Imagine if we all took stock of our daily impact on the Earth, as well as our connection to it, with the same consideration and consciousness. Imagine if we all went about our days intentionally, thoughtfully considering our choices and contemplating the way we live and act. Imagine if we weighed the impact of our actions on our global community as well as our local neighborhood. In the middle of a pandemic that has upended the world completely, if ever there were a time and a call to make lemonade out of our lemons, it is now.

For more on what we can do, the United Nations recently published a series of Sustainable Development Goals and monthly actions. That’s a great place to start.

As a reminder, I know I say this every time, but I can’t emphasize it enough. WE are the solution. At a time when nothing feels within our control and the problems seem extraordinarily large and insurmountable, we need to dig deep inside, pivot, and rise to the occasion. Small but measured steps – planting one little lemon seed at a time – is the way it is going to get done. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. We need to do better starting now – and we can.

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