Tulip Raiders

When I was about ten years old, my best friend and I made the most amazing discovery: the branches of a forsythia bush make wonderful swords.  When we pulled off their bright yellow spring blossoms, the thin, tapered branch became a Zorro-style rapier, complete with the zzit-zzit sound when brandished.  We soon became sword-yielding fiends, the grand protectors of Pioneer Street.

We experimented on the tall grass.  Zzit-zzit.   Dandelion blossoms surely deserved to die.  Zzit-Zzit.  Now we were on to something!  But it was too early in the spring to find enough of these troublesome weeds to satisfy us.   We combed the neighborhood in search of more villains, heading toward my best friend’s house.  That’s when we saw them!

A row of perfect tulips lined her next-door neighbor’s driveway, standing like multi-colored soldiers guarding the entry to a castle.  “Off with their heads!” was our cry.  We gleefully zzit-zzited up the driveway, beheading each brave sentry before they had a chance to fight back.  Satisfied that there were no survivors, we moved on to other prey.

I must confess that now, as an adult, every time I plant a tulip bulb, I think of that poor woman who had planted those tulips in her driveway.  I’ve since learned that while planting most annuals, say petunias or marigolds, is instant gratification, planting tulips is like making an investment.  I would wait for autumn, just after we’d put the lawn mower away for the last time and raked up most of the fallen leaves.  That’s when I would bring out the tulip bulbs that I’d bought or kept from last year’s planting.  The bulbs were buried in the cold ground — as a deposit in spring’s bank.

I can just imagine that woman, going to her kitchen window each morning in the colorless days of late winter, or checking as she walked along the driveway, for a sign that her investment would soon pay off.  Finally a green shoot appears, small at first, then piercing the air like a sword.  Each day the leaves get bigger, until finally that solitary stem appears with a single bud.  Now she checks the buds almost hourly, reveling in the new life and the promise of spring, eager to catch the first glimpse of an opened blossom.  She knows the blossoms won’t last long, and when they finally appear she wants to treasure each minute of their existence.

I don’t know if she screamed and dropped her coffee cup, or if she just sat down and cried.  Seeing her beautiful tulips, now decapitated, must have been a terrible shock.  My best friend lived to marry and have children, so if her neighbor knew she had participated in the massacre, she never sought revenge.  But somehow, my own enjoyment of my tulips today is diminished, remembering the sin of which I am so guilty.

But it also makes me ask this question:  ‘To whom else have I done this?  Have I casually lopped the heads off of someone else’s tulips?”

Oh no, not literally.  I’ve repented of my sword-brandishing days.  But what about my sisters and brothers who are struggling through a dark season of despair, who are hanging on by a thread, who are waiting for the brighter days of spring?  Do I help them invest in God’s hope – in the knowledge that He can be trusted and His answer is on the way?  Do I offer encouragement and grace?  Have I listened to their dreams and cheered them on as they pursued their God-given goals?

God’s word tells us not to “let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph; 4:29)  Just a few verses later, Paul urges us to “be kind and compassionate to one another.” It’s part of our responsibility as members of the body of Christ.  Who does God want to ‘build up’ through you today?

I can never replace those severed tulips.  I can never restore the hope I dashed as an unthinking child that day.  I can only reach out, one person at a time, and encourage those people the Lord brings across my path.

But I can ask this… to the tulip lady, if you’re reading this…can you please, please forgive me?

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio  Permission is granted to share this post, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes. (Yes, you can share this with your friends, but please tell them who wrote it and where you found it, and don’t try to sell it!)

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Barbie on June 15, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    You know I totally don’t remember that. It was a good story, thanks for the memory. You’re a very good writer.


  2. Posted by Steve Egidio on June 16, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    I can almost hear the “zzit” sound of the forsythia branch lopping off the Tulip heads.


  3. Posted by Jenny on June 17, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Perfect …


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