Of Love and Cucumbers
The first memory I have is that of a cucumber field. It is slightly hazy, green and brown from all of the dirt. About twenty feet away, my family is bent over picking cucumbers. There is a chain-link fence to my right, and I am all by myself, in the morning sun, a new world of dreams emerging in a three year old mind...
We lived in the country in a small trailer. There must have been at least ten of us living in there. We would run around barefoot chasing the chickens and being chased by the geese. (Geese are nasty creatures, especially to children.) That cucumber field was my first nursery, my first library, and the first place I encountered God, staring at me, smiling with the first light of day.
When you are a child, you do not really know what poverty is. If you are lucky like I was, you love and are loved. Sure, with the age of television, children have become much more covetous. I have been surprised by children carrying around large bills of twenty or even of a hundred dollars on their persons. When I was five years old, my family took us children out to cut apricots, and for four weeks of labor we received ten dollars total. (More if you were older.) But we had ten dollars, and we were rich. That was love, and it is very difficult now, twenty-two years later, to return to that simplicity, tenderness, and contentment.
You know the story now. You know that since that day when my mind first emerged from that cucumber field, I have not stopped dreaming. Dreaming, however, can make you very bitter and ungrateful if you are not careful. So let me reflect briefly then:
I live in the richest country in history. I attend the best public university in the U.S. I am very clever, and have the health of an ox. I have the whole future in front of me. So why am I complaining that "things didn't go according to plan"? What happened to that contented three year old playing in the mud of a cucumber field. Or that five year old whose favorite food was fresh cucumbers cut up and soaked in large amounts of lemon, red chili powder, and salt. What happened to that child who knew that even if he didn't get all of the toys he saw on T.V., his mother and family still loved him. We can be so ungrateful sometimes.
Yesterday, when I was at Mass, a shaft of light hit the corpus of the crucifix right down the chest. "A spear of light," I thought. "But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance...." Everytime we complain to God, it is like we are piercing the Crucified's side again. It is not enough that He made us, sustains us in our being and promises us eternal life... we always want more. How does God react to this insolence? Meekly, like a beggar, always trying to make us happy just because we (even complainingly) ask. For Him, our whining is sweet like the name of a lover just because it is directed to Him. A spear of light. A spear of love. As long as we ask. As long as we talk to Him. We can be so ungrateful sometimes.
Love is a tricky thing to understand. I began to understand it in that musty smell of sweat and dirt. Life is not for the timid and the cowardly, but He will always be there to pick us out of the mud. It takes so little to be happy, but it does take a simple and suffering heart. May God grant me one so that I can love Him more perfectly. To Him be all honor and glory, unto the ages of ages. Amen.