One of the things that fascinated Brianna Hopkins about her studies of those who have discovered and used their talent was their motivation. As she reflected on motivation, she was struck by how that once talent emerged, there was nothing to stop it. The motivation for the use of one’s talent was not based upon external rewards or recognition but an internal satisfaction of fulfilling life’s purpose. This was especially true for Molai Payeng, a native of India who Brianna found to be very inspiring.
Jadav (Molai) Payeng was born to one of the indigenous tribes in India. As a child, he became disturbed by the disappearance of the forest on a small island where he liked to play. Erosion was turning the island into a sand bar. Animal life was also disappearing. He found within himself the talent to restore the forest.
When he was 16, Molai made a vow to plant one tree on the island every day for the rest of his life. At first he struggled to find tree seeds to plant. He wanted to ensure the island continued to have a variety of tree species. Eventually, as his trees matured, he was able to collect seeds from them. This allowed him to plant more trees.
For years, Molai’s efforts went unnoticed. When a herd of elephants was being sought by authorities, they were surprised that they wandered into the forest that Molai had created. The official records showed no forest on the island.
In fact the island had become the habitat for a variety of animals including tigers, rhinoceros, monkeys, and a variety of birds. While Molai has received acclaim in India, he receives no support from the government. He and his wife and 3 children live in a small hut on the island. He sells milk from a herd of cattle and buffalo he owns as his only source of income. For him the fulfillment of his talent was self-rewarding.
While Molai has received public recognition, at first he received no help. Now he is concerned for the future of the island as it has been discovered. People who have come to the island have not respected its ecosystem. Poachers are also threatening the wildlife.
As Brianna reflected on Molai’s talent, she thought about the impact that one man has contributed to our environment. Over a span of 40 years, Molai has planted 1.5 million trees. She reflected on the lessons he has provided to all of us. She thought about how one’s talent can play a role in environmental restoration even while governments struggle to reach agreement.
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“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
– Warren Buffett