Last April, Jamie (the other US-2 serving in Tucson) and I moved into the parsonage of St. James UMC. Before we moved in, someone (I don’t know who) was hired to clear up the brush that was invading the driveway. This “brush” included a cactus. When we moved in, I looked at the driveway and thought, “Weird. Whoever cut up that cactus just left the pieces lying on the ground. Maybe they didn’t have the right tools to move it safely and will come back and take care of it soon.” I mentioned it in passing to our St. James parsonage contact.
A few weeks later, the cactus pieces were still lying in our driveway. I brought it up a bit more forcefully to St. James and was told it would be taken care of. Nothing happened. A few weeks later, the city was doing a brush and bulky collection. I brought the cactus pieces up again and offered to take care of it myself if they would provide the proper equipment. I was told I didn’t have to do that and that it would be taken care of. You get the picture, right? Nothing happened, and, after a while, I stopped caring. The fallen cactus was just something I made sure to warn visitors about along with the huge potholes on our dirt road.
Last week, I hired a couple METRO kids to come clean up our rock garden (Jamie and I refuse to call it a yard since it’s pretty much just dirt, little rocks, and weeds). I went to a local hardware store to buy some gloves and a couple tools for them, and I thought, “Why don’t I find out if there’s something relatively cheap that I could use to finally take care of that cactus?” So I ended up walking out of the store with gardening gloves with a thick neoprene coating over the palm and fingers – apparently the nonporous material helps keep cactus spines out.
On Wednesday morning, I tackled the cactus. Did you know that when pieces of a cactus break and fall off, they take root where they fall? I didn’t. Figuring out the best way to tug while gripping the cactus very carefully was a “fun” experience. Also, neoprene doesn’t do all that much to keep sharp pointy things out. Finally, as I looked at other cacti that weren’t infringing on the driveway, I realized that they all looked like they’d grown, fallen over from their weight, taken root, grown again, fallen over, etc. I have no idea if this is actually true, but it seems like falling over is just part of this particular cactus type’s life cycle.
Oddly enough, carefully removing a cactus from the ground and carefully transferring it to the dumpster became a somewhat meditative experience. I started coming up with “life lessons” that could be learned from the fallen cactus in front of me, so I’ve decided to share them with you. Yes, they may be a bit far-fetched, but it was seven in the morning…
Life Lessons from a Fallen Cactus
- Don’t leave a job half-finished. I don’t know why the person who originally cut up the cactus didn’t dispose of it. But, if they had finished the job, I wouldn’t have had to uproot a cactus. From now on, I will picture my jobs and responsibilities as cacti; if I don’t take care of them, I’m leaving a cactus in someone else’s life that they will have to uproot and clean up themselves. That’s not nice.
- People, like cacti, have spiny defenses. I know I do. It’s important that I treat the vulnerabilities of others carefully, with consideration and respect. That way, no one gets hurt.
- Sometimes, we fall over from the weight of our burdens.
- That’s okay.
- We can take root where we fall and grow again.
The METRO Center of Tucson
Global Mission Fellow US-2, Class of 2015-2017