Every December, I send poinsettias to a number of business acquaintances whom I respect. It’s a networking gesture I learned from my dad. Last night I compiled my list of colleagues for this year’s batch. However, this morning I had a change of heart. I decided instead to send flowers to a handful of people who have been there for me at my lowest points this year, talking me through anxiety attacks and debilitating ruminations.
Poinsettias have special significance for me because, when I was the children’s book editor for Paulist Press, I worked on a beautiful book by Brian Cavanaugh (illustrated by Dennis Rockhill) called “Miracle of the Poinsettia.”
It goes like this: a young girl named Maria wanted to make a special gift to present to the Baby Jesus (part of the creche) with the other children at the church celebration on Christmas Eve. She tried to weave a blanket, but her yarns became entangled. Christmas Eve came and she had nothing to give.
“I tried and tried to make something beautiful,” she cried, “but instead I ruined it.”
“Maria,” a voice said, “the Baby Jesus will love whatever you give because it comes from your heart.”
She decided to fill her arms with weeds from the tall grass outside the church and offer those. When she arrived at the church and saw all the other lavish gifts, she became embarrassed of her offertory. She tried to hide behind a pillar, but the priest saw her and invited her forward.
When Maria reached the Christmas crèche, she bowed her head in prayer and let the weeds fall out of her manto.
“Look at those glorious flowers!” cried the crowd. Now each weed was topped with a vibrant red star. Even the ones outside.
Maria’s love had created a miracle.
The story has significance for those of us mired in anxiety and depression. While all we see right now is our failures and the bleakness of our situation, our sadness is but a chapter of an unfolding story with a hopeful ending. The ugly weeds we hold in our hands will undoubtedly become something beautiful if we persevere with courage through this darkness.
I wish I could send flowers to all the readers that have inspired me with hope the last few weeks.
I’m sending a virtual poinsettia to you all.