Friday, April 24, 2009

The Yellow Rose

I believe that one of the most important encounters of my life – one that has changed the course of my thinking, and my general living approach – took place when I was about thirteen. I had gone with my mother to visit some friends of hers, and I immediately felt drawn to an old man who lived there – I would later find out he was the father of my mother’s friend.

The man was an easy one to spot. With snow white hair and a fluffy beard he somewhat reminded me of Santa Claus. Little did I know then, that in so many ways he really was a Santa Claus, as the gift he gave me that day was indeed the most precious I ever received.

As a teenager, I couldn’t be bothered with spiritual stuff – I lived for boys and clothes, and as all teenagers, I believed that a life free of drama was a waste of time.

Well, this particular day, we were going to see my mother’s friends, and although I did not dare roll my eyes in boredom during the trip, I certainly did so in my head. What a dreadfully boring afternoon this was shaping up to be! We arrived at about 3:00pm, and walked in. My mother’s friend had coffee and pastries ready, and we all sat down with her. Shortly after we arrived I asked if I could go out in the yard. I figured there would be even less to do there, since they lived in the country, but at least I didn’t have to listen to the annoying chat.

I walked outside, and that’s when I noticed the man. From the back he was an ethereal vision, and created a marked contrast against the vibrant green of the foliage around him – his hair blended with the collar of his white shirt, and where that ended, white trousers began. He turned around when he heard me approaching and flashed a smile as white as his hair and shirt. “Well, hello young lady” he said. I nodded, uncertain whether to feel annoyed at the prospect of more adult conversation, or relieved that I wasn’t alone.

“Would you like helping me weed the flowers?” He asked, his intense brown eyes peering through thick dark lashes as he pointed to a small row of rose plants. I shrugged, walked toward him and began to pull some of the weeds growing around the plants. With my city training I had no clue I had to watch out for thorns, and I pricked my finger after the third weed. I instinctively sucked my finger and saw the man smile. Was he making fun of me?? The nerve! Here I was helping him and he found it funny that I got hurt. I got up, ready to leave and go back inside.

“Please, don’t leave” he said, “thorns are one of the downfalls of cultivating roses, but the flowers are a gift of Heaven. He picked one of the roses and handed it to me. It was an explosion of yellow silk, and I don’t think I had ever seen one so pretty.

“See?” said the man, “its thorns hurt for a moment, but its beauty makes you forget the pain. People are like roses – we see the thorns first, but if we work past them, what we find is worth the struggle. Tonight, when you go to bed, ask yourself this question – who are you, really? Are you a rose, or just its thorns?”

“Who am I really?” – This question haunted me for years, and maybe I haven’t quite fully answered it yet, but one thing for sure is that, since that day, I’ve known that if I ever wanted to find my inner rose I would have to work through at least a handful of thorns.

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