A few months ago, my sweet six year-old niece fell face down on top of a large cactus with full grown spikes. She could not get up. All the kids were playing in an open field during a family picnic. I heard her screaming from a distance, but I thought the kids were just playing and having fun.
As I listened closer I realized something was terribly wrong. So I ran quickly toward her. To my horror, I found her little body completely laid out on top of the cactus. She must have been running with the other kids, and not paying close attention to the ground.
She was screaming in the most horrific way. I think she was more scared than hurt. As I approached, she continued to wail at the top of her lungs, ?Get me out of here! Get me out of here!?
But the more she seemed to wiggle and cry out, the more she got stuck. She simply could not get off of the cactus by herself. In a split second, I assessed the situation, braced her under her arms and lifted her up. I stood her on her feet a safe distance from the cactus. But she continued to scream. Loudly.
She was still so frightened. Only now she was shouting, ?Get them out of me! Get them out of me!? She had small cactus spikes piercing her entire body. The doctor in me knew that this was not a serious injury. It was just a tedious matter of removing all these spikes one-by-one. But to her, this was incredibly traumatic.
For the next six hours, my family and I worked to get the cactus spikes out of her skin. It was quite an emotional day for her and for me. I am so thankful that she was alright. It broke my heart to see how terrified she was, even though I know this is part of growing up. Sometimes you have accidents.
In the coming days and weeks, as I reflected on what happened, I thought about how we all fall on cacti in our own lives. We all get ourselves into scary situations because we are not paying attention, or because we are not wise enough to avoid them, or strong enough to withstand them. We all find ourselves in situations that we simply cannot untangle ourselves from on our own. ?Sometimes, we feel helpless to resolve a problem. And it seems the more we move, the deeper we get stuck. All we can do is cry for help, and look around desperately for someone to lift us up.
The sad reality is that while many people have the ability to help someone?off of their cactus, most are too busy or overwhelmed with life to stop and help. So today, I want to remind us to renew our commitment to humanity. May we daily commit ourselves to these two principles?
1. I will seek to notice your cactus.
I define a cactus as a huge problem in our lives, one in which we feel helpless to resolve. The more we try to get out of it, the more we get stuck. We simply need someone else?s help. And we are all susceptible to getting tangled up in one. If you have never found yourself feeling helpless, you’ve just not lived long enough.
While my niece was literally screaming out loud, many people are crying out from the inside. They feel too ashamed to tell us what is wrong. So they go on hurting, but unnoticed. Will we be sensitive enough to hear them, and truly seek to see the cactus they are stuck on?
2. I will lift you from your cactus, regardless of the personal sacrifice.
When we help someone get off of the cactus they are stuck on, we must prepare ourselves for pain. The cactus spikes will get on you too, whether you like it or not. That?s exactly what happened to me with my niece. All the adults who helped get them out of her, got stuck many times themselves. Taking people off of a cactus may require your time and resources. Are you willing to pay the price in order to help someone else?
A couple of weeks after this incident with my niece, I was visiting their home, and she gave me the biggest hug. This one was different from her usual hugs. She didn?t let go for nearly a whole minute. It was the warmest hug I have ever received.
It was her six year-old way of saying thank you.
Will you choose to stop and pull someone off their cactus today?
Actionable step: Make a list of the key people in your life. Write down what you think their cactus is. When you can, and to the degree that you can, help remove them from it. Or help remove their spikes.
About me:?During medical school, my nickname was Flipper. That?s because I used to drive a big Chevy Blazer which I managed to completely flip upside down during an accident on the highway. Thank God, I walked away safely, even though I was going about 70mph.
For Further Reading: