They stand tall, many with arms raised, quiet protectors of the local ecosystem.
I’m in Tucson, Arizona for the first time, visiting my sisters and brother-in-law.
It feels like I landed on a different planet.
Tucson is a beautiful desert community, a place that redefined my idea of wilderness. My perception of deserts has been one of dry barrenness, a wasteland where nothing can grow, where water is scarce and can’t be wasted on things like grass.
Some of that is true. The only grass I saw was on golf courses. The area is dry with exceedingly low humidity. It isn’t a wasteland but a beautiful landscape that’s a polar opposite of our flourishing greenness in Florida.
What has taken my breath away are the plethora of saguaro cacti that populate the land. They’ve always been my idea of what a cactus looked like, tall with arms raised to the skies.
Not all saguara are the same.
My sisters and I have taken several hikes through canyons and desert trails which have revealed a variety of plants that I’ve never seen before. As we walked, one would say, “Watch out for the thorns.” An apt reminder–I do believe every plant growing around here has some kind of thorn on it.
The saguara, however, were not only covered with prickly thorns but came in a greater array of shapes than I’d anticipated. Extremely slow-growing, some were armless. It takes at least fifty years for this type of cactus to grow an arm, which helps them produce more flowers to help them procreate.
They’re perfectly suited for the desert clime–they have a very shallow root system to absorb the little water that falls in the desert.
They’re a metaphor for how we must adapt to our stories–where we live, our family of origin, the influences on our lives. Our differences are what allow us to stand as individuals; our commonalities give us the courage to connect with one another.
We learn to thrive where we live, adapting to our surroundings and expectations.
My two sisters, brother, and I are very different from each other. We have a family connection, but our life experiences have been varied since leaving home. Different yet compatible because we choose to stay connected to one another, no matter how dissimilar we are.
All people have commonalities with one another, giving us the ability to connect honestly with others. It comes down to choosing toforge relationships. To treat others with the same respect you would like offered you.
Jesus made it clear what our attitudes should be.
“Do to others whatever you would LIKE them to do to you. This is the essence of ALL that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Often referred to as the Golden Rule, it’s choosing to treat others with kindness and anticipate kindness in return.
Like the saguaro, we’re all prickly and self-protective to some degree. People need to be aware of who we are, not to ignore or marginalize us, but to appreciate our uniqueness. It may take time for some people to grow on us, but giving them and us that time is a gift of grace and kindness.
Prickly is a choice of exclusion.
Kindness embraces and includes.
Which would you choose?
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