Faith, Family, and God: Hyacinths

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January 6, 2011
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist

Another holiday season has passed. Tofurkey (a tofu product made with a stuffing as gross-sounding as the name) made it onto the Christmas menu. I made a sincere effort to eat healthier. Call it a lapse in judgment. Okay. It was a huge lapse in judgment. No offense to vegans or vegetarians is intended. The Tofurkey was worse than pressed over-salted, imitation turkey at a mediocre diner where the cook’s ashes from a cigarette pinched in his teeth drop onto the plate.

One holiday tradition that I started several years ago compensated for the dinner whose name must never be acknowledged again. Every year I force hyacinth bulbs. In September, they’re planted in pots, watered, and placed in the refrigerator’s vegetable bin for fourteen weeks. If bunny food ever comes in the form of chocolate covered celery, carrots, squash, etc., then I’ll consider finding another cold storage for the hyacinths.

In late December, I took the hyacinths out and placed them in the warmth of a sunny window. Not long thereafter green stalks pushed their way up from the dark, potted earth. Soon there will be fragrant flowers of reds, whites, and purples reminding me and those to whom I give a gift of hyacinths that even in the cold winter there is always life, beauty, and hope.

Winter is symbolic of the challenges we face in our personal and professional lives. It also foretells of new beginnings. The season is a time of reflection. Ask yourself how you become a better person in 2011. What do you need to do that goes beyond personal drama to make a small contribution that improves the world? Winter is a time to watch good movies, read great novels, and plan for the future.

The hyacinth reminds me of St. Therese of Lisieux. She thought of herself and every person she met as one of God’s flowers. Although she is a Catholic saint often referred to as the “little flower,” I mention her not to promote any faith (Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Pagan, or in this case Christianity) or a denomination (Wiccan, Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalian, Pagan-Unitarian, etc.), but to highlight a wonderful message that you can learn from her, although her Christian denomination does not always represent God in a positive way. All faiths, religions, and denominations have truths to teach.  They are manifestations of the Giver of Life (one of God’s many names). The flowering bulbs I give to friends and acquaintances remind them of their own unique beauty that can change lives.

In some ways God’s children (that’s us) haven’t learned much over the centuries. War, injustice, and financial exploitation haven’t gone away. Sisters and brothers, no matter their race, faith, gender, language, or sexual orientation still find a reason to hate, hurt, and take advantage of one another forgetting that they are given life from the same source.

Yet the world has changed. It is better than a hundred, two hundred, or three hundred years ago. Why? Because you’re in it! The world is more beautiful for what you bring to it. You’re a hyacinth. If you’re not sharing your inner beauty then you’re holding back on the world.

This year think about how you share your beauty with neighbors and the community. Think about how you can make life better for someone who lost their job even if he or she is homophobic or a cantankerous homebound senior citizen next door. Be a hyacinth or other flower in the New Year. Share your beauty.

* Paul is an author, attorney, and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY. His book Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith without Wisdom, is available on He may be reached at