The other day, walking in the desert, I came across something I’ve seen before, though not often. It’s a short saguaro cactus, growing directly out of a rock, with no visible soil around its base and no shelter from the sun. I paused to reflect on this amazing thing.
Clearly the cactus has put down roots—however thin or fragile—that go deeper than what I can observe. And I’m guessing that the plant is smaller than another of similar age that has plenty of soil. Nevertheless, it’s there, alive and growing at its own pace.
I’m inspired by such plants. They’re a good analogy for life in the tough times. The teaching is not so hard to read: when life gets hard, put your roots down deep into any available crack. The challenges will affect you, it seems to be saying, but will not destroy you nor prevent your growing.
We know people like this. When adversity comes along, they know to settle in and seek inner resources—which we all have and often ignore. These are the folks who smile through illness or injury, who find ways to expand even when limited by circumstances, who simply keep going against the odds.
How do they do it? I’ve noticed a few common characteristics among such folks.
First, they don’t complain. They accept where they actually are and what they are actually facing. Some of them have worked hard to come to this attitude. Second, they express gratitude. They’re thankful for what is theirs and for the beauty and joy available. They express gratefulness for help they receive. Third, they cherish some kind of growth purpose: they want to create something, or experience something, or accomplish something. Whatever they must do or find to equip themselves for such growth, they simply undertake it and do it.
And they treasure the present experience. A story is told about Thomas Edison. His laboratory—the place and repository of years of work and records—caught fire. Watching the huge blaze, he said to one of his employees, “Go get my wife! She’ll never get to see anything as spectacular as this again!”
I admire such people. And if I can’t always emulate them, I can copy the little cactus: put my roots down through any available slot and say “yes” to growing in the sun.