A few years ago we planted two magnolia trees, one on each side of our front yard. I remember the large magnolia whose branches hung low over the wooden fence of my childhood home and how people sometimes knocked at our door and asked to cut a few blooms for a wedding. I wanted some of that lemon-sweet southern comfort at this home too, where we’ve lived for almost 15 years.

The tree on the east side of our yard has grown tall and fair, with fragrant blooms from top to bottom. The one on the west side, now dwarfed by two trees who’ve outgrown it, is much smaller and currently has only two blooms, drooping near the ground.

We’re told to bloom where we’re planted: to live and thrive in our unique location and circumstances. But my magnolias show me externals do make a difference. What attitudes have I absorbed from the culture, pervasive as this honeyed scent in the air? How do I filter which beliefs take root in me?

Can we chose the family, the zip code, the ethnicity, or the financial status into which we are born? Of course not. But we do make choices that impact us and those around us.

{Interestingly, hardship can grow a person like my east-facing magnolia while apathy can stunt us like its sister-tree, a few yards away.}

There’s a reason Jesus’ words at the Sermon on the Mount, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, are known as the Golden Rule and not the Golden Suggestion. How we treat others is a defining piece of our humanity.

Acts 10:34-35 tells us God is no respecter of persons: that He views us without partiality or favoritism. Thank you, Lord!

Let us examine our hearts daily and treat others with the same respect and dignity with which we wish to be treated.

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