George was confused.
His teacher at school had told him that he needed to know how to be a better person. She’d said that he needed to know how to do his spellings for the test on Friday too. But what puzzled George most was she’d told him that he needed to know how to grow up to be “useful member of society” and he didn’t know what she meant by that.
He sat in his bedroom wondering how to get more of the “know how” that the teacher talked about. Everything seemed to be about this “know how” and it seemed that without it, he wouldn’t be able to pass his tests and become a good person. He decided to go downstairs and ask his mum because she would surely know how to discover more of this “know how” that his teacher insisted he needed.
As he slid down the stairs in his favourite way, he chuckled to himself as his bottom banged on each step. He realised he knew how to slide down the stairs but he didn’t remember anyone showing him or telling him – he just did it one day and it felt good. So he did it again and again.
As he walked into the kitchen, his Dad was reading his newspaper. George wondered if the newspaper was where his Dad got his know how from as Dad did seem to know a lot of stuff. Mum was watching television and the boy wondered if that was where she got her know how from too.
“Mum, how do I get to know how to do things?” said George, as he wandered up to the table where his mum was sitting.
“Sorry George, what did you say?”
George sighed. Mum often wasn’t listening to him and he wondered why, if she had so much know how, why she didn’t listen to him when he had an important question.
“Mum, my teacher says that I need to know how to do a lot of things – like learning my spellings, and how to grow up to be useful – so how do I get this know how that you grown-ups seem to have?”
Mum was staring at the TV. George realised that she was watching her favourite programme where everyone appeared to be shouting at each other and looking sad. George didn’t really want the know how of those people but Mum seemed to like them.
“George, I’m watching Eastenders and Danny is just about to find out who killed his step-daughter and then we’ll see the big fight that everyone has been talking about. So I need to watch this. Have you done your spellings?”
George gave up. Whatever know how his mum had got, he didn’t want any of it. So he walked over to his Dad and asked him the same question. Dad put his paper down and looked at George.
“Why are you so keen to know how to do things George?” said Dad. “Is someone bullying you at school? Has someone told you that you’re stupid?
“No Dad”, said George. “It’s just that my teacher keeps telling me I need to know how to become a good person and I want to know how to do it”.
“You’ll find out soon enough” said Dad, and he lifted up his paper and carried on reading.
George was disappointed. It seemed like grown-ups had the know how but weren’t prepared to share it. He picked up his favourite book, walked into the garden and decided to go and sit under his favourite tree. The sun was shining brightly and he felt the warmth on his head and exposed skin. He wondered how the sun got to know how to be hot and bright. And as he sat down under his favourite tree, he wondered how the tree got to know how to grow so tall.
“I don’t know how George, it just happens”…
George looked around for the voice that had spoken to him. It sounded familiar, almost like his own voice, but it was deeper, warmer and very friendly. George touched the tree and whispered to it.
“Was that you speaking Mr Tree?”. George didn’t need to know how the tree had spoken to him as it just felt right.
“Of course it’s me” replied the voice inside George’s head. “Didn’t you know that?”
George wasn’t frightened, but he was puzzled because the voice was asking about know how too. He wondered if the tree could help him understand about this elusive gift called know how…
“Mr Tree, everyone talks about something called know how and I want to find out about know how too. Do you know how to be a good tree?”
George heard the rustle of leaves and creaking of branches as the tree moved gently in the breeze. As he sat with his back against the large trunk, it felt warm and safe. It was as if the tree was holding him in a warm embrace.
“George, you are wise boy. Your question about know how is puzzling to me too as I do not know how to be a tree – I just am a tree. When I was formed, all that I needed to be a tree was contained within me. I just carried on being me and I grew. I didn’t know how to become a better tree – I just am a tree. Why are you seeking this thing you call know how?”
George was pleased that the tree was puzzled by his question too but wanted answers.
“I want to grow up to be a good person and all the grown-ups tell me I need to know how. But they won’t tell me where I can find the know how or they seem to all have a different idea of what the know how looks like. Maybe they don’t have the know how either?”
A leaf fell from the tree and landed on George’s leg. He looked at the leaf and picked it up. It was brown and yet the tree was full of green leaves. It puzzled him.
“Why is this leaf brown Mr Tree, when all your others are green?”
The tree rustled and swayed once more and a few more brown leaves fell into George’s lap. He looked up into the canopy of the tree and felt close to his friend who was offering him advice.
“I do not know how my leaves change colour” whispered the tree. “But they just do change when the time is right. In each moment of my life, the sun, the wind and the rain just appear at the right time and I change with them. I do not know how – it just happens and everything seems to work out ok. In your world, I watch you grow and yet you seem to worry that you do not have enough of this thing you call “know how” for you to grow. You are always searching for answers that you do not need, and yet everything you need is already inside you George, just like it is for me. In my world, there is no how – there just is “I am”.
George felt tears in the corner of his eyes and they began to squeeze out. He couldn’t stop them and he realised he didn’t know how the tears came or where the came from but he felt safe and happy and that was all that seemed to matter.
“You mean that there is no “how” Mr Tree? And I don’t need to know how at all?”
“No George, there is no how. There is a force that surrounds you that will always deliver the how and show you the way. All you need to do is to be you. The only place you need to look for the know how that you seek, is deep within you. So go now George and stop seeking the know how – as there is no how for you to be concerned with at all.”
George sighed and felt content. He had found the know how that he needed and he realised he didn’t need to know how at all. He had felt all along that being a good person was already within him. And now he knew that growing up would just happen – and that if he was a good person, then the “how” his life would turn out would be taken care of by a force much greater than himself. He knew he might bump his head from time to time and that it might hurt – just like when he fell off his bike. But he always got back on again and trusted that he’d be safe to carry on riding…
George looked up into the tree once more and smiled. “Thank you Mr Tree, you have helped me a lot today. I hope one day I can help you too.”
The tree looked down at George and smiled back, for the tree was within George and George was within the tree. And the two of them didn’t even know how that could be. It just is.