Post by Susan Mwarabu
I heard the following story of a man and his poinsettias a while ago and I have no idea who first came up with it. Like all parables, it would change and take on different meanings depending on the events of the day. In this rendition, it’s a story that applies to everyone, but is especially relevant to those who have a challenge in how they view themselves. It goes like this:
There once was a man who had a garden of beautiful poinsettias. He was also a very busy man and had lots of obligations that took him away from being able to take care of his garden. Well one day, he had to go away on a business trip. He was exhausted when he came back and couldn’t muster the energy to tend to his poinsettias, which were by then overrun with weeds. It occurred to him that he could simply outsource this job. So he hired someone to tend to his garden.
Satisfied with his brilliant idea, the man got busy taking care of his other duties. Once done, he decided to go out and relax in his yard. His eyes skimmed the landscape and took in the fresh-cut green grass and travelled on to take in the sight of his beautiful poinsettias. It took him a few seconds to realize with horror that the area that had once been his garden was now a gaping space. The worker he hired to remove the weeds had failed to distinguish his weeds from his poinsettias. The beauty of the garden had therefore been cut down, along with the problem.
The man resolved that from then on he would always take care of his own gardening needs because he could best distinguish what he wanted his garden to look like.
Our lives are very much like this garden. If we don’t tend to our weeds and spotlight the most attractive side of ourselves, no one else is going to see the poinsettias inside of us. For ex-offenders, the weeds might grow even a little higher.
The weeds in an ex-offender’s life take many forms. In some cases, it is a lack of the work skills needed to land the employment one wants. In other cases the weeds are someone’s attitude on life and unwillingness to own up to his or her mistakes. In other cases, it is a need for the right education to compete in the world. While in others, it’s low self-worth or inability to see that what needs to get done will only be accomplished by the individual herself.
There is a poinsettia in every ex-offender, but it takes work and effort to show this to a community that often assumes our gardens contain only weeds. For over 40 years, Amicus has worked to help each of its clients bring out their inner poinsettias. Amicus has many programs, all designed to help ex-offenders find a way to show the best side of themselves to the world. But even with assistance from Amicus, the ultimate responsibility lies on the individual ex-offender. The maintenance of our lives boils down to how we care for the personal gardens growing within. Amicus might help someone find the best growing conditions or lend a tool or two, but the individual provides the constant care.
In the end, if one does not take responsibility for weeding his or her own garden, the beauty and possibility of who they could be will get lost in the weeds in their lives.