I grew up living fifty feet away from a cactus nursery that my family owned. My childhood memories all revolve around cacti, greenhouses, and lots of hard work. We lived down a long dirt road in a double wide trailer across from a cow field. Not 100 yards from our back door was little lake with our green canoe slid up on the shore. On a hot summer day you could usually see an alligator snout drifting by, and hear the soft swoosh of the cattails rustling in the breeze. A weathered old wood fence separated our house from the business with a gate that creaked lazily when you opened it and slammed shut behind you. Neat rows of fiberglass and glass greenhouses stretched out from the fence, filled to brim with every sort of cactus you can imagine.
Those greenhouses are where I learned all about work, every Saturday, every summer vacation, and after school every day from 7th grade on. It was not exactly fun work either. Cacti are not equal to turnip greens…get too cozy with one and your likely to be very miserable for a very long time…it’s also really, really hot in a greenhouse in Florida in the summer time. I was too little too see over the benches when I started my first job, so I pulled weeds from under them. The “boss’s” kids were fair game for just about any job that needed doing from scrubbing algae off of sidewalks to managing the office on a Saturday. I knew how to drive a tractor, shovel a truckload of soil, charge sale’s tax on an order, or trim an overgrown euphorbia before I was 11. Further more I knew how to hustle while I did it…take too long on a job and you were most likely going to be staying longer than quitting time to finish. Show up to work five minutes late, and you’d probably find yourself working for free for the first hour to help remind you to be on time. Feeling tempted to complain? Probably not a healthy choice, there was always worse jobs available for complainers.
Aside for having a deep and abiding aversion to cacti of all types now and forever, I can’t say that growing up like that harmed me in anyway. Fact is, growing up without a whole lot of extras and having to deal with it, might have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I’d say it’s scarred me, alright…scarred me to the point I’ll never expect things to just be handed to me…to believe things like something worth having is worth working for…that living within your means (even if that involves a double wide down a dirt road with no internet, TV or cell phones) is called being a responsible citizen…that happiness doesn’t come from things…that character is built by standing on your own two feet and keeping yourself accountable to God for your actions…to take care of what you have and use it until it can’t be used anymore…to be grateful for what’s given to you…to give to others even when you don’t have much to give, because it all is a gift from God anyway…to take pride in your work and do it to the best of your ability.
I’m a blessed girl…blessed because God’s taken care of me and loves me, not because I’ve gotten everything I ever wanted. Can I just point out that I’m not a special case? God knows exactly what we need, and He’s more than happy to help…thing is, most folks don’t bother to ask Him. I think maybe growing up the way I did, caused me to view the difference between needs and wants a little differently than most folks. I understand that I am not entitled to have everything I want…or to have everything Mrs. Smith has down the street. She isn’t evil because she has more than me. Fact is, neither one of us would own a stick if God didn’t give it to us!
As we enter the season of “stuff”…the buying, the getting, the hostessing, and the decorating…I would challenge myself, and you, to refrain from comparing ourselves to the neighbor’s celebrations and buying abilities, and to instead, be deeply grateful for having so much more than we could ever deserve. No matter which “class” of society we fall into, we are so loved, and so blessed.
Matthew 6:8 :for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.