Provence was a very rural area at the time, and rather desolate as well, as it had been almost totally denuded of trees due to over-cutting. To have any kind of successful agriculture, there must also be trees to protect the earth. They help hold in moisture, prevent erosion and protect the soil from the sun so that it won't dry out.
But this province of southern France had been almost totally denuded of trees, and the soil had been washed away. The whole region had become barren and dry; even the wildlife had fled, as they were now deprived of food, shelter, water and safety, all of which are provided by trees.
So, this young man was taking a walking tour through this desolate area. The villages were old and run-down and most villagers were now gone.
He stopped one night at the cottage of an old shepherd. It was small, but clean and simply furnished. The young man intended to only spend the night enjoying the hospitality of the kind shepherd, but ended up staying several days. He observed that the shepherd would spend his evening hours sorting nuts by lamplight...all sorts of nuts. When he had finished sorting out the bad ones he would put the good ones in his sack.
Then, as he led his sheep to graze the next day, he would plant these nuts along the way. He would walk great distances doing this; pushing his rod into the ground, planting a nut and so on for miles all over Provence. He did this every day. Watching this, the young man wondered what the shepherd was trying to do. So, he finally asked,"What are you doing ? To which the shepherd replied," Well, I am planting trees." The visitor asked," Why ? It will be years before these trees get to where they can do any good. You might not live that long!" The shepherd said," Yes,but some day they'll do somebody some good and it will help restore this dry land. I may never see it, but my children will."
The young man marvelled at this man's foresight, vision and unselfishness to sacrifice for the well being of future generations even though he himself may never see the benefits of his labour.
Twenty years later, when he was in his forties, our hicker once again visited the same area and was astounded at what he saw! One great valley was completely covered with a beautiful natural forest of all kinds of trees! Life had sprung all over the valley, the grass was back, the shrubs and wildlife had returned and the farmers were cultivating crops once again.
He wondered what had become of the old shepherd, and found that he was still alive, now in his 70's and still living in his little cottage, and still sorting nuts every evening.
The visitor was amazed, not only in the trees, but also in the revived agriculture, wildlife and the beautiful grass and shrubbery. The farms were thriving and the villages had come to life again! Because of one man's foresight, one man's dilligence, one man's patience, one man's sacrifice the whole region had come back to life again.
So, if you are sometimes discouraged with the world, don't give up ! As proven by the humble shepherd, one man can change the world! You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change your part of it just like the old shepherd.
My dear friends, if you have changed one life, you have changed a part of the world and have proven that it can be done!
Oh, you say you can't change the world ? It's too late, too bad, too big and just too hard ? Well, just try changing your part of it! Change your heart, your mind, your spirit, your life. Change not only your life but those of your own family! You'll then have a new home, a new family filled with the Truth and Love of God!
Don't ever say," What's the use, I can't do anything, who am I ?" Let me tell you, begin today and change your world and the world of those around you. Like Johnny Appleseed, who would plant an apple core when he finished eating the apple and from that there grew appl trees all over New England and they are still there today being enjoyed by hundreds. You can't change the world ? Oh yes, you can !