I Came Out Smelling Like a Rose

Today’s journey took me to the  Catholic Charities of West Tennessee.  I worked with their Bouquets of Hope program, which takes donated flowers from weddings and special events, and rearranges them into smaller bouquets to deliver to people in hospitals, hospice, nursing homes, and seniors living in assisted living or retirement communities.  I arrived at 8:30am and was introduced to Lucie, the Coordinator of Supportive Services.  We chatted for a few minutes, and the one thing she said that struck me the most was how much she loved her job.  She said that had she known the job would be this rewarding, she would have gone after it so much sooner.

After a tour of the facilities, and an explanation of all the good deeds the organization does for those in need in the community, Lucie took me downstairs to the Bouquets of Hope production room where I met Maria and Michael. I saw buckets and buckets of flowers, and smelled the strong scent of roses.

Original bouquets, prior to disassembly

Original bouquets, prior to disassembly

Without saying a word, Maria handed me an apron, and I knew it was time to get to work!  She showed me how to disassemble the larger bouquets and put them in buckets of water.  By the time we finished the disassembly, other volunteers arrived. What had been a very quiet room turned into a bustling area of the friendly chatter of regulars who meet there every Monday.  I have no experience with flower arranging, but after watching all of the regulars, I think I got the hang of it.  We ended up with 80+ small bouquets to deliver.

After a quick lunch break, I had the opportunity to speak with Christine, the Manager of Social Enterprises and Community Engagement.  I asked her, “So what made you get into the nonprofit arena?”  She explained that she was going to law school and wanted to be a public defender.  After some volunteer experiences and a job opportunity at Catholic Charities, Christine realized this was where she was meant to be.  She also explained how several people at Catholic Charities came from corporate backgrounds much like myself, and chose to change their career direction toward the nonprofit world.  That was encouraging to hear.

Finished products - ready to load into the van

Finished products – ready to load into the van

By the time Christine and I finished our conversation, Lucie brought the van around. We loaded up all of the arrangements for our road trip to St. Mark’s Village in Moscow, TN – about 45 miles east of Memphis.  We met up with the van carrying boxes of food to share with the residents along with our bouquets.  We quickly devised a game plan for the four-plex buildings, and immediately went into delivery mode.

What struck me the most with meeting each of the residents was how happy they were to see us – even though they had never met us.  I remember one resident in particular – Barbara – was so excited to see us!  She immediately opened her door to let us in.  I told her I would put the vase of flowers on her dining table, and she said, “Don’t mind the mess on that table, I’ve been paying my monthly bills.”  So I said, “Well that’s always fun!”  She replied, “Ain’t it though?”  Then we both laughed.   She asked, “You got time to sit down for a bit?”  How could I not?  So I sat down on the ottoman next to her chair and stayed to visit.

Me hanging out for a bit with my new friend Barbara.

Me hanging out for a bit with my new friend Barbara.

Towards the end of our delivery, I met another sweet soul – Aida!  She was so proud of the flowers we left her, so she went around to her neighbors to make sure they all were getting them as well.  We were at our last apartment, and couldn’t get an answer at the door, so Aida comes up and starts banging on the door, yelling the resident’s name, and sure enough, the door opens.

As we were leaving, Aida said, “This is a blessing!  Y’all keep doing wonderful things!”   That one statement made my day!  It is a blessing to be able to do nice things for others with no expectation of a good deed being reciprocated.  Too often we forget this in today’s world.  I would say that what I learned the most from today’s experience is this – there is reward in doing for others – no matter how small the act.

We got back in the van for the 45-minute drive back to Memphis. Lucie gave me a warm hug as I was leaving.  I drove off with a smile, because I just had a great day, and I could still smell the strong scent of roses.

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