THE PARABLE OF THE ORANGE TREE
Dr John White
I DREAMED I DROVE ON A FLORIDA road, still and straight and empty. On either side were groves of or¬ange trees, so that as I turned to look at them from time to time, line after line of trees stretched back endlessly from the road, their boughs heavy with round yel¬low fruit. This was harvest time. My wonder grew as the miles slipped by. How could the harvest be gathered?
Suddenly I realized that for all the hours I had driven (and this was how I knew I must be dream¬ing) I had seen no other person. The groves were empty of people. No other car had passed me. No houses were to be seen beside the highway. I was alone in a forest of orange trees.
But at last I saw some orange pickers. Far from the highway, almost on the horizon, lost in the vast wilderness of unpicked fruit, I could discern a tiny group of them working steadily. And many miles later I saw another group. I could not be sure, but I suspected that the earth beneath me was shaking with silent laughter at the hopelessness of their task. Yet the pickers went on picking.
The sun had long passed its zenith, and the shadows were lengthening when, without any warning, I turned a corner of the road to see a notice "Leaving NEGLECTED COUNTY - Entering HOME COUNTY." The contrast was so startling that I scarcely had time to take in the notice. I had to slow down, for all at once the traffic was heavy. People by the thousands swarmed the road and crowded the sidewalks.
Even more startling was the transformation in the orange groves. Orange groves were still there, and orange trees in abun¬dance, but now, far from being si¬lent and empty, they were filled with the laughter and singing of multitudes of people. Indeed it was the people we noticed rather than the trees. People--and houses.
"Is it a holiday?" I asked a well-dressed woman with whom I fell in step.
"When do we start to pick or¬anges?" I asked the man who had loaned me his book.
The well-groomed man at the front was still making his speech. His face was red, and he appeared to be indignant about something. So far as I could see there was rivalry with some of the other "orange-picking" groups. But a moment later a glow came on his face.
"Do we start to pick now?" I asked my informant.
"When you've been in the busi¬ness as long as I have, you'll realize that it's not as simple as that," he replied. "There isn't time, for one thing. We have our work to do, our families to care for, and our homes to look after. We. . .
But I wasn't listening. Light was beginning to break on me. Whatever these people were, they were not orange pickers. Orange picking was just a form of entertain¬ment for their weekends.
I tried one or two more of the groups around the trees. Not all of them had such high academic stand¬ards for orange pickers. Some held classes on orange picking. I tried to tell them of the trees I had seen in Neglected County but they seemed to have little interest.
"We haven't picked the oranges here yet," was their usual reply!
The sun was almost setting in my dream and, growing tired of the noise and activity all around me, I got in the car and began to drive back again along the road I had come. Soon all around me again were the vast and empty orange groves.
But there were changes. Some¬thing had happened in my absence. Everywhere the ground was littered with fallen fruit. And as I watched, it seemed that before my eyes the trees began to rain oranges. Many of them lay rotting on the ground.
I felt there was something so strange about it all, and my be¬wilderment grew as I thought of all the people in Home County.
Then, booming through the trees there came a voice which said, “The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers. . ."
And I awakened because after all, it was only a dream!
Author: Dr. John White