People need unconditional love, care in order to grow

Phil Schurrer and Phil Schurrer

My wife and I lived with our sons in Tucson, Arizona, from 1978 until 1987.

During that time, we planted a cactus garden on the right side of our house, as viewed from the street.

It consisted primarily of an ocotillo [a tall, thin, multi-stemmed plant], a barrel cactus [short, round and squat] and the centerpiece – a saguaro, a tall cactus, covered with spines that, when mature, grows “arms.”

Saguaros are the iconic southwest cactus and a protected plant species. At that time, they could only be purchased from a licensed landscaper.

Transplanting a young plant from the desert without a license is unlawful.

Our saguaro was about five feet tall when we purchased it.

The recommended planting procedure: dig a shallow hole, stand the cactus up in it, then brace it until it grows roots and becomes stable. Under no conditions, water it.

I recently viewed our Tucson home on the Internet. Thirty years later, the ocotillo and barrel cactus have grown. Several different cacti have been planted by subsequent owners.

And the saguaro? It now appears as tall as the house. More importantly, it has grown its first “arm.”

In some ways, that saguaro reminds me of our family.

When we left Tucson for Toledo in the spring of 1987, our sons were twelve and five years old. Now, they’re married, have children of their own, live in their own houses and have good jobs and great spouses.

I think of some other young people who haven’t been so fortunate – those who have been aborted and have never seen the light of day or have never known a life other than one filled with abuse and neglect.

I think of the students who visit my office. Ostensibly, they come for help with their studies.

But occasionally some will disclose heartbreaking personal problems, either with peers, finances, parents or with other personal problems.

I keep the phone number of the University Counseling Center handy and share it. Although not a trained counselor, I can listen.

When planted, saguaros need bracing. They have no way to stay erect until their root system develops. And so it is with people.

From our earliest days, we need love, care and support in appropriate doses.

But, just as it’s a mistake to over-water a cactus, too much attention paid to children can be detrimental. Sometimes, it’s caused by parental overcompensation.

Like the saguaro that grows its first arm only after decades of maturing, some things in our lives must wait until we are mature.

Churchill once said, “It is a mistake to plan too far into the future. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.”

It seems that sometimes we treat cactus and other protected species of plants and animals better than we treat each other.

Perhaps we would do well to look upon each other as a “protected species” and treat each other that way.

You can view our Tucson home and the cactus garden on the internet: 608 N Loquat, Tucson Arizona.