Most people never have a reason to think about the life of a florist. I’m the daughter of a florist, so let me get a few myths cleared up right away: working in a flower shop does not mean you sit around playing with flowers and looking cute in your apron all day. Flower shop work is not lucrative. If you want to be a florist you have to be passionate about it. You have to love flowers enough to know about each flower you sell. You have to love flowers enough to be able to work with them every single day.
I could never be a florist.
My mom has owned her own shop for the last three years after working in the industry since before I was born. My mom knows her stuff. I am always amazed at how she can take a bucket of random flowers, arrange them in a chunk of glass filled with water and turn them into something beautiful. And she never gets sick of it, even when her feet are tired and her hands are swollen and shredded from the thorns and years of work.
But florists do not just arrange flowers.
Florists work with people. We do weddings, parties, baby showers, funerals and the simple day-to-day bouquets for guys. We have weekly customers that come in for their "wife insurance," and weekly customers that come in for something for a friend or their dinner table. All of these people come with their own quirks and their own stories, whether it is the lady who only buys flowers that match her green jacket or the guy who recently suffered a stroke and is learning to speak again.
I have come out from behind my safety wall—the counter that separates me from the customers—to join my mom in offering a hug or some tissue to a customer who needs consoling. It is especially hard during the holidays. This last Christmas an older man came in for a single white rose. One might assume it is for his wife or a girlfriend, but this white rose was to be placed in a vase on their table next to their centerpiece. This rose would represent their son that had passed a few years ago. Every holiday they buy a white rose for the table to remember their son. With tears in his eyes, he thanked my mother for the beautiful rose and closed the front door behind him.
Another woman stopped by for some flowers, and as we put the finishing touches on her centerpiece, she cleared her throat and said, "Linda, I just really want to thank you. You do such beautiful work, and I do not know if you remember me, but you did a lot of the flowers for my husband’s funeral this last October. Do you remember him?” She broke down in tears, and I brought out my trusty box of tissue from behind the counter while my mom held her.
These people are not just our customers.
You see, the life of a florist is filled with more than just plants and aprons and flowers. It is filled with people—hurting people. We get a chance to see inside their lives each time they buy a carnation or a rose or a sunflower. When a husband is asking for the card with a picture of a man crawling out of a doghouse, we know to throw in a few extra flowers for him. When a flustered bride-to-be comes in, we know which sheet of paper to give her—the one with all the "to-do" lists on it for her wedding. When a mother comes in with tears in her eyes, we know that she needs flowers for that special child of hers that has gone home to a better place. We also know to offer a hug and some tissue.
We are able to see a part of these people’s lives that they do not share with everyone else—broken marriages, grieving families, bitter friends. This part of their life, before they enter the shop and after they leave the shop, is covered up by the fake smiles and the day planners and cell phones. They put their sunglasses on or adjust their hat, to shield their eyes for the precious moments it takes for them to cover up their broken selves. As the door closes and the door chimes stop ringing, I find myself back behind my safety wall wiping down the counter or shining vases trying to get past the burdens of these people that I have taken upon myself.
There have been plenty of times where I have sunk down to the floor behind the counter and wept for these people. And suddenly I know— in the tiniest of ways—what it is to be in Jesus’ shoes. To watch these people broken and hurting, sharing bits and pieces of themselves, but then covering back up, adjusting their sunglasses and scribbling notes in their "to-do" lists.
Ask the florist.
Most people do not go to florists for advice, but I am going to offer some—take it or leave it. Be yourself. Be willing to be broken even if it means shedding a few tears in front of someone else. Do not just cover it up and carry that burden alone. Invite others to help you. And buy some flowers.