Flowers That She Couldn't Smell
--by bluebuddha, posted Jul 1, 2011
“Everyone says the flowers smell good but I don’t smell anything. Nothing. Do you smell them?” she asks, in her heavily accented voice. After walking around a busy street looking to do a random act of kindness, I had stumbled into this flower shop. Even though my mind was busy devising possible scenarios, I had a gut feeling that something was going to present itself.
A little startled by the flower lady’s question, I tell her that “the flowers smell ah-mazing and perhaps you should take a break once in a while so you can enjoy them too.” Before I realize, I find myself in the midst of a conversation about her life -- she got laid off from United Airlines a few years back, took the unemployment money and traveled the world for a year. Then, she ran out of money and came back to work at the flower shop.
We talk about all sorts of things as I try to decide on the flowers. Unsure of which ones might be appropriate, I pick up and smell some Gerbera daisies. The leaves are starting to turn a little brown around the edges. That won’t work. These must be perfect, they’re a special offering for someone else. I place them back in the bucket of water and pick up a few other large stunning maroon and rusty orange ones. They definitely scream,“You’re special.” I’m amazed at how beautiful and perfect they are. If a tiny seed can turn into such an enormous affirmation of beauty, love, and hope, how much potential do we all have as humans?
They’re a little expensive but I can easily skip lunch today. I take them over to the register and chat some more. The lively Chinese lady smoothly wraps them up in a sheet of clear plastic with a pink satin ribbon bow around it. I can’t wait to pass these on. I’m all set to leave when I realize that she’s not quite finished with our conversation yet. It was when we moved on to talking about her daughter -- who does a lot of volunteer work -- that I realized that this IS my “service” opportunity. This is my “act of kindness” for the day. I surrender to the moment and rest my flowers on the counter, and -- just listen.
She jokes about how her daughter helps at soup kitchens and she’s been a volunteer for the zoo for two years. “But if I ask her to sweep the floor, she’s too tired,” she complains. I’m amazed when she mentions that her daughter is only sixteen. “She’s wiser than most of us.” I proclaim, “Your daughter will never be lonely or unhappy in her life because she’s figured out how to -- give.” I’m starting to get the feeling that she’s secretly proud of her. She goes on, “I don’t really know what my purpose in life is, I just do this work for a living.” I quickly chime in, “I don’t know what my purpose is either but there are some things that I know that are more ‘right’ than others. And one of those things for me is service. It doesn’t have to be big things. In fact, I think they’re usually small things. Like being kind to others around you, for example.” And then suddenly, she asks, “What do you do?” I tell her that I was also laid off from work too, and took the unemployment money -- and went abroad for a year (but it was more of an inner journey). And now I’m a volunteer with a non-profit and do other “random” stuff. She’s amused. “Actually I can show you some of my random stuff,” I tell her. I cheerfully take out the Smile card from my pocket and tell her about the pay-it-forward concept. “It’s really about the small things like these flowers for example -- I plan on giving them to a random person who looks like they could use it. Perhaps an old couple sitting on a bench somewhere,” I smile realizing I have a lot of work to do.
After fulfilling her request to leave some Smile cards on her counter and telling her to make sure that she gives one to her daughter, I bid her goodbye. I’m almost out the door when she calls me back and pulls out a bunch of fresh flowers that look like lilies. “Can you give these to someone nice also?” Wow! I can’t believe she wants to be a part of this. As she wraps them beautifully into three separate bouquets, I am overjoyed. Lost for words, I tell her that this “act of kindness” is on her behalf. “It’s under your karma,” I joke. She refuses any credit and wouldn’t hear of it.
I walk back onto the street armed with four beautiful bouquets, feeling ecstatic and grateful for her contribution. Fully confident that I’ll “know” exactly who to give these to, I keep walking until I see a middle-aged couple sitting at the bus station. The big guy in the leather jacket is on the cell phone with his arm around his wife or maybe girlfriend, with spiky orange hair. They look like they just rode in on a motorbike from one of those 80’s movies. Instantly, I know she’s the first candidate. I walk up to her and hand her the gerberas (which is now my favorite flower in the world), “You look like you would appreciate these flowers,” I smile. The guy immediately gets off the phone, “God Bless you!” The lady is all smiles. They seem like a good couple. And before they have time to register what’s happening I take off, leaving the smile card in the bouquet.
Less than 100 feet away, I spot a small, old lady sitting quietly on the passenger-side of an RV/Trailer by the gas station. I’m still smiling from my last interaction. She smiles at me and I’m taken back a bit and look down. She has one of the most genuine smiles I have ever seen; it seems to instantly light up the entire street. When I reach the RV, I signal her to open the window. She eagerly opens it, “Can I give you some flowers?” I smile. As her small frail hands gently take the bouquet from mine, her smile widens even more and now I’m close enough to see the twinkle in her eyes. “Wow, thank you so much.” “I hope you enjoy them.”
Feeling like Santa Claus, I march onwards. The third person takes a while to find. I almost miss her, actually. I see this short grey-haired lady from the back, walking with her head half-way down; after passing her once, I decide that she is “it” and take a u-turn to walk back two blocks. “These are for you,” I hold them out with both hands and a huge smile. “They’re beauty-ful. Wow!” Her face lights up. I walk off quickly in my usual style. I hear a surprised “Thank You” in the back. “I hope you enjoy them,” I yell back.
I can’t believe I’m already down to the last one. Right when I’m thinking of leaving it on a windshield of a random car with a Smile card, I spot a young lady. She’s probably in her early twenties, average-looking; from her backpack and clothing, she looks like a typical college kid lost in her thoughts. There’s something about her that reminds me how hard it is sometimes be that age. Just as I pass her, I decide to hand over the lilies to her. Her face just blossoms. She turns from average looking to amazing. It feels -- just right.
Walking back, I feel so full, so full of love. Astonished that such small acts can bring so much joy to someone’s life; grateful that all it takes is the right intentions and the whole universe beckons by your side; hopeful that someone at a random flower shop can open up her heart to give beautifully wrapped flowers, free of charge for three random people she’ll -- never meet.
But i just smelled so so many beautiful fragrances reading this lovely story.