Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Gifts that Keep on Giving

During a difficult period in my life, my friend Alice gave me a prayer plant. “It will remind you of where your strength comes from,” she said. Sure enough, every evening as the sun went down, the prayer plant extended its leaves upward. I was reminded to turn to God more often, and I also remembered my friend.

When a move across country forced me to leave the plant behind, I photographed it. Sometime later, I created an oil painting of the plant sitting beside a garden glove and a trowel. The painting still hangs in my kitchen. Whenever I look at it, I remember my friend and her reminder to reach up in times of need. Her priceless gift of love was simple and inexpensive, but never forgotten.

(A new prayer plant to replace the first)

With the approach of school in August, my thoughts turn once again to the gift-giving season. If you’re like me, you worry about money, and how you’re going to afford gifts? Expectations are high and everyone from the postman, your child’s teacher, your co-workers, your friends and neighbors end up on your shopping list.

(Christmas Cactus, started from one small leaf.)
One low-budget year, I gave my friends and co-workers a small Christmas cactus. The plants were only $1.50 each; some even had blooms. A couple women accepted their plant reluctantly, complaining that they didn’t have any luck with plants; the rest accepted their gift graciously and seemed to be pleased.

Over the next few years, I was surprised by their reactions. Each time I saw one of these women in a social or work setting, she always gave me an update on the status of her plant. When I visited in their homes, I was shown how well their plants were doing. Some struggled to keep their plants growing just for me. Eventually most if not all of the plants bloomed. As the women cared for their plants, they remembered my gift. The perky green cactus became a symbol of our friendship, and a gift of love that kept on giving.

(A lovely Fuschia plant growing outdoors)
But you need to plan early! A plant needs several weeks to “start” (or you can buy starts at your favorite nursery). The same year that I gave the cactus plants away, I purchased one for myself. That plant is now three feet in diameter, and bloomed three times this past year. Plus I started another plant from this one, and the restart is almost as big as its mother. I couldn't help but think of all the women I had given a cactus to over the years, and I hoped their plants had brought them as much joy as mine have brought me.

A Christmas cactus is an easy plant to start. Break off a leaf, soak it in water until small white roots appear and plant it in potting soil. Now is the time to begin your gifts of love. Who knows, you could save some money, and you’re sure to be remembered for a lifetime.