Small acorns; mighty oaks

There is a saying that goes “from small acorns grow mighty (great) oaks”. I thought about this as earlier today I went for a brisk walk in my nearly local park where there are several mighty oaks, some older than me. I have been fascinated with oaks trees, something I see as quintessentially English, ever since I was a child, and have wondered at the thought something so small and insignificant can produce these magnificent trees. The difference from the last time I walked in Blenheim Park, was then I didn’t notice acorns on the branches (no doubt because this is a seasonal thing) but this time the trees were being seen in their full glory with canopies of green leaves from impressive branches, alongside masses of acorns, with a few having dropped already, lying on the ground.

I recall first coming across the “small acorns mighty oaks” saying in my first major community project that I helped start, and soon embarked on my third career (after teaching and computing) as a full time community activist, around the turn of the millennium. One of my colleagues was taken with it so much, as it seemed to epitomize what we were attempting, and often reminded us. The project we were involved in was called Growing Together, and the title happens to be pertinent to this discussion. The centre piece of our practical aims was transforming a piece of derelict wasteland into a beautiful garden and involving those with mental health issues as part of their therapy and rehabilitation. We saw ourselves planting small acorns with the view these will eventually grow into mighty oaks. In a small way we succeeded and the project continues to this day. It was appropriate that in our garden were oak trees and two, as I recall, would be put in the “mighty” category. This saying was soon to become an intrinsic part of our mission statement.

As I viewed the acorns I picked up today, I realised how small and insignificant these are. They would become even more insignificant over time as they turn from green to brown and shrivel. Most of the acorns I saw today will drop to the ground and maybe picked up and maybe recycled. A few might be eaten by passing squirrels. And even fewer will go into the ground and die, and if left alone will become oak trees and maybe mighty ones like some of those I saw today. The acorn and the oak tree are metaphors on life itself if we are not to be overwhelmed or distracted from things that make life meaningful.

While the metaphor may be appreciated by those of all religions and none, I couldn’t help thinking of the words of Jesus, not about acorns but something that operates on a similar principle: “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit”. Today and tomorrow, I will be attending the funerals of two people I held dear to pay my respects. In the midst of life we are in death and we are reminded how fleeting life is, yet to be celebrated, and that death befalls us all, Then there is always the acorn to reflect on, concerning which, if allowed and having died in the ground, will become a mighty oak.


2 thoughts on “Small acorns; mighty oaks

  1. John Baber!
    Could you pleace comment upon this little outburst by a British, Jewish countryman of yours?

    Ben Cohen:
    We need to send a wake-up call to proudly identifying anti-Zionists like Jeremy Corbyn: refraining from attacks on Jews as Jews isn’t enough to absolve them of the charge of anti-Jewish bigotry. Substituting the word “Zionist” for “Jew,” or consorting with active anti-Semites (and then distancing yourself from them only once these meetings become public knowledge), is a shabby trick, and we are smarter than that. Crucially, we understand that the immediate target of Western anti-Zionists isn’t Israel, but Jews in their own countries who identify with Israel.
    Before I close, I should answer any reader who is wondering whether Jeremy Corbyn could actually end up as British prime minister. Given that many pundits are predicting that his own party will split if he wins the leadership, and that Labour has invariably been unelectable when it leans too far to the left, one would think that the chances are slim. But even as opposition leader, he will gain a bully pulpit that he could only have dreamed of just a decade ago.
    Reprinted with author’s permission from


  2. I read the link with interest and have followed Mr. Corbyn’s activities with interest. I agree the concerns you raise are important but as these do not directly relate to this particular post I will not comment further here and besides I need to reflect on what he really did say before I do respond. I have made other more relevant blogs on the subject in the past though and will do so again – so do bear with me.

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