A cactus stood all alone in the desert, wondering why it was stuck in the middle of nowhere.
"I do nothing but stand here all day," it sighed. "What use am I? I'm the ugliest plant in the desert. My spines are thick and prickly, my leaves are rubbery and tough, my skin is thick and bumpy. I can't offer shade or juicy fruit to any passing traveler. I don't see that I'm any use at all."
All it did was stand in the sun day after day, growing taller and fatter. Its spines grew longer and its leaves tougher, and it swelled here and there until it was lumpy and lopsided all over. It truly was strange- looking. "I wish I could do something useful," it sighed.
By day hawks circled high overhead. "What can I do with my life?" the cactus called. Whether they heard or not, the hawks sailed away.
At night the moon floated into the sky and cast its pale glow on the desert floor. "What good can I do with my life?" the cactus called. The moon only stared coldly as it mounted its course.
A lizard crawled by, leaving a little trail in the sand with its tail. "What worthy deed can I do?" the cactus called. "You?" the lizard laughed, pausing a moment. "Worthy deed? Why, you can't do anything! The hawks circle way overhead, tracing delicate patterns for us all to admire. The moon hangs high like a lantern at night, so we can see our ways home to our loved ones. Even I, the lowly lizard, have something to do. I decorate the sands with these beautiful brushstrokes as I pull my tail along. Buy you? You do nothing but get uglier every day."
And so it went on, year after year. At last the cactus grew old, and it knew its time was short. "Oh, Lord," it cried out, "I've wondered so long, and I've tried so hard. Forgive me if I've failed to find something worthy to do. I fear that now it's too late." But just then the cactus felt a strange stirring and unfolding, and it knew a surge of joy that erased all despair. At its very tip, like a sudden crown, a glorious flower suddenly opened in bloom.
Never had the desert known such a blossom. Its fragrance perfumed the air far and wide and brought happiness to all passing by. The butterflies paused to admire its beauty, and that night even the moon smiled when it rose to find such a treasure.
The cactus heard a voice.
"You have waited long," the Lord said. "The heart that seeks to do good reflects My glory, and will always bring something worthwhile to the world, something in which all can rejoice - even if for only a moment."