Once upon a time in a far away place there lived a fig tree. The little tree lived in a lush orchard, surrounded by green and growing things that produced beautiful, ripe fruit every year at harvest time.
But not the fig tree.
It was stubborn. No matter how much the gardener pruned it, watered it, or fertilized it, no matter how much tender care he gave it, the fig tree would not bear fruit. It simply didn't want to be bothered. It had better things to do, like soak up the sun and rain and enjoy the rich soil. “Besides,” the fig tree thought, “bearing fruit does nothing for me. Everything I produce just goes to feed someone else anyway, so why should I bear any fruit at all?”
One day the fig tree saw the gardener walking through the orchard with another man. It was the orchard's owner! The fig tree had seen him before when he had come to make his annual inspections. The two men stopped in front of the little tree, and the owner looked at it closely. He walked all around it, peering up into its branches from every angle. Then he sighed and shook his head. He turned to the gardener and said, “For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none.”
The owner inspected the fig tree again. His expression was serious and a little perplexed as though he were trying to make a difficult decision. Finally, he turned to the gardener. “So cut it down,” he ordered with a little nod, “Why should it exhaust the soil?”
The fig tree couldn't believe it. Cut it down! Cut ME down! Its branches began to tremble.
The gardener gazed up at the fig tree. He seemed to notice its distress. After all, he had cared for it for three years, and he knew it well. “Sir,” he began, “leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.”
The owner heard the note of pleading in the gardener's voice. He understood that the gardener had spent much time and effort tending the little fig tree. He considered for a moment and then gave the gardener a kind smile. “Do as you will,” he said. Then he moved on to continue his walk through the orchard.
The gardener stood still for a moment before the little fig tree, which was still trembling, only now with relief. “You know what you must do,” the gardener mumbled to the tree. “I will help you, but the choice is yours.”
The little fig tree did indeed know, and it vowed from that moment on to bear good fruit for the gardener who worked so hard and for the owner who had given it a second chance.