“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4)
Back in the early spring, I decided it was time to put together a list of the flowers and plants I wanted to buy for the dozen or so pots around the house that were awaiting a splash of color after a cold, Kansas winter. Barbara was the mastermind of our flower gardens, but with her passing last year, the job now fell to me.
I knew the basic plants and flowers I wanted to get: Coleus and petunia, dragon wing begonia and purslane, dahlia, geranium, caladium and impatiens. With this list in my head and an excitement I hadn’t felt in months, I drove to the local nursery close to my house.
However, as I entered the parking lot of the nursery, sadness entered the cab of my truck. I tried to ignore it, but as I walked up and down the aisles looking at all the plants that reminded me of Barbara, I started to cry and knew I couldn’t do it. Fortunately, I had the greenhouse to myself, so nobody saw a sixty-year-old man blubbering his way out the door and back to his truck.
After a few tearful minutes in my truck, I wiped my face, went back into the nursery and bought four items for the front of my church. I counted that as a victory.
When I got home, I sent a text to two friends who had lost their spouses before I lost Barb, telling them what happened and that I planned to try again next week. One friend responded, “Oh….take your time. You will know when, even if just a couple of pots this year.” The other said, “Or maybe not next week…maybe next month or next spring. There is no timetable—you’ll know when you’re ready.”
A few weeks after my breakdown at the nursery, I was talking Lauren, a single girl who lives across the street. She was struggling to keep her plants alive so I was giving her some tips. Because she had plants on her porch and I didn’t, I mentioned to her my failure at the nursery as a way of explanation for the lack of plants and flowers. Lauren said, “Oh, I understand. But I always enjoyed looking across the street and seeing all the flowers and the color.”
She didn’t know it then, but that was the boost I needed. The next day I went back to the nursery and stocked up on the plants and flowers I tried to buy three weeks ago. When I got home, I took a picture of everything in the back of my car. Then I sent the picture to the friends I texted earlier with a caption that said, “SUCCESS!”
The lesson I learned from this was simple: I shouldn’t stop doing things that bring other people pleasure just because my feelings are hurt. Yes, I wanted to buy flowers. Yes, I got emotional about it. Yes, I waited a while before I went back, but I DID go back. Lauren taught me how some of the simple habits Barbara and I formed also brought simple pleasures to other people. Paul reminded the Philippians to look out for “the interest of others.” Lauren’s offhand remark reminded me she was one of the “others,” and now I wonder how many “others” are out there who might need me to attend to the things that bring joy not just to me, but also to them.