The Fourth Leaf
By Joe Amaranthine
I collect four-leaf clovers. It's sort of a hobby, like knitting or shooting hoops, only a whole different ball game. The noble creed of clover collectors is that each leaf represents something: the first leaf, hope; the second, faith; the third, love; and the fourth, good fortune.
To most of the fortunate, finding a fourth leaf means a blessed day, health, a kiss from God. To me, it means another precious addition to my collection.
Of course, there was a time when I'd never found one myself. I found my first--and for a while, only--four-leaf clover five years ago. I was sitting at a gloomy gas station, staring miserably at the two shoes on my feet, when it smiled at me from a corner of my vision. It beamed my way, and after awhile I was beaming back.
That day the fourth leaf, even though a hungry bug had eaten a circle out of it, represented cheer--and I needed as much cheer as I could get. Nothing astoundingly fortunate happened to me, though, so I pressed the clover between the pages of my Bible and all but forgot about it.
When I showed it to some friends one day, the bug-eaten fourth leaf was still grinning. Many of them had never seen an actual four-leaf clover before, and they all offered to keep their eyes open for contributions to my "collection."
Contributions began to pour in. The next week when I saw my girlfriend, she had pressed four for me, which I laid carefully in the Bible beside the bug-eaten, smiling original. Over the next few weeks, other friends brought more. Shortly we had a whole little community.
I'd still only managed to find one myself.
I did occasionally search for more of the elusive four-leafs, fingering through velvety patches of green that I hadn't already stepped on. I found many three-leafs and even a few twos, but no fours. I couldn't help but feel a little frustrated when my girlfriend, week after week, brought over tiny bunches of two or three four-leafs for "my" collection.
I had found the patriarch, at least--the smiling father of all my four-leaf clovers. I wouldn't bewail my own misfortune of not finding more. I was strong, I told myself. I would hold on!
It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf. Who could compete with those odds?
My girlfriend, apparently.
One week she brought over seven petite four-leafs, smiling tiny smiles from between her fingers--each fourth leaf, as usual, a little smaller than the rest.
I grumbled to myself as I stored them away in my collection. It wasn't fair. Who had the time to sort through tens of thousands of almosts? She took care of a group of kids, and she often looked for clovers for me while the kids played quietly in the park beside her.
I turned to lavish on her my heartfelt appreciation and love, but before I could say a word she flashed a wicked smirk and whipped out her crowning contribution--one ripe, blossoming, beautiful clover with six luscious, full, emerald leaves! Angels sang as I fell to my knees.
I couldn't stand it one second longer. When the choir had died down and the single, piercing beam of light shining down upon the holy grail of clovers had faded, I held the six-leaf tenderly and begged my girlfriend for her secret.
I've never forgotten her words.
"I don't have a secret," she insisted.
Then, suddenly, she stumbled upon just the right words to sum up her inspired strategy, a strategy that will prove just as unstoppable a thousand years from now as it had for her. With pursed lips and sparkling eyes, she whispered, "I don't stop looking till I find one."
I have since found many, yes, many, many four-leaf clovers, and my clover collection currently spans my Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. "Don't stop looking till you find one."
Do ten-thousand-to-one odds scare you? Edison had over 2,000 failures before he invented the light bulb, but it only took one success to start lighting up the whole world.
Do you have the time to sort through tens of thousands of almosts? It depends on how much you want the prize.
Whether it's clovers or successes or love you're looking for, determine to not stop until your fingers have closed around the goal. Maybe the very next one will be your "four-leaf."
And maybe that fourth leaf was never meant to represent cheer or health or even the best of fortunes.
Maybe that fourth leaf actually represents perseverance.
Joe Amaranthine is a member of the Family International in Mexico.