I stood in the quiet flower shop and watched the florist fill the counter with an assortment of beautiful flowers and greens. He had taken pity on me when I nervously explained that I needed an arrangement for an event and basically begged him to help me. He offered some suggestions, and I quickly nodded yes even though I had no idea what the end result would be.
The store doors were open, and the refreshing spring air patted me on the shoulder in a reassuring way. I relaxed in the moment and studied the flowers the man had chosen, excited to watch the arrangement come to life.
I felt great respect for his confidence as he quickly picked the flowers and knew just where to put them. He easily pruned certain leaves, trimmed stems, and added just the right amount of color. There is something peaceful about watching a person create his art.
Rather than enjoy the gentle quiet, I felt the obligatory nudge to make small talk and asked how many of these he must make every day.
He smiled and simply said, “A lot.”
I continued, “I bet you can make these in your sleep.”
He chuckled gently and said, “No, I really have to be there.”
He glanced up from his work, and we both just looked at each other.
It was the most profound thing I had heard all day.
A few minutes later, he handed me an exquisite creation, and I carefully carried it to my car. Several days later, I am still thinking about his words.
“I really have to be there.”
In the last few weeks, the arrival of spring has included a faster pace of life. I cannot tell you how many people have said things to me like:
“Things are too busy. It just feels like too much.”
“I love spring, but I hate the schedule that comes with it.”
“My kids are so tired. There is just too much going on.”
“I am just holding my breath to get through this week.”
“If I can just make it until June, I will be fine.”
I think a majority of us just wish we could do a lot of this in our sleep. We put our heads down and with determination, decide we will just hang in there, and make it through this hectic time of year.
Other days, life just feels hard. People I love are hurting, there are no easy answers, and I feel helpless as I watch them suffer. It is tempting to just go through the motions, get through the day until things get a little easier or better.
But at what expense?
The florist stands at that counter eight hours a day creating gorgeous arrangements. I am sure there are moments of fatigue when his back hurts, moments when customers are demanding or rude, moments when the arrangement he envisioned didn’t quite work and he has to start over. I wonder if there are times when he just doesn’t feel all that creative.
But, as he said, he “really has to be there.”
Art and beauty require our presence.
Life does too.
We can definitely go through the motions and detach from it all, but what do we miss when we do that?
How do we choose to stay?
This is not the moment when you hear, “Cue the five easy steps for being completely engaged in every moment, even the mundane or painful ones.”
I don’t have five easy steps to share.
I could say, “Let’s all cut out three things from our schedule this week,” but how do you choose which things to eliminate? Do we take one child to practice, but tell the other we are skipping? Do we hand our boss the list he gave us with three things scratched out and say, “You know, I am feeling like I need to minimize some things in my life so I just can’t get to all of this today.” Wonder how well that would be received.
So I won’t say that.
I will say that in that moment of eye contact with the random, talented florist, I was reminded that I have been starting to check out a bit, going through the motions.
Last Sunday, my 13 year old asked me if I wanted to hit some tennis balls in our cul de sac.
It was a striking spring day, the weather was perfect, and my first response was, “Ah, I really have to go to the grocery store. I have a lot to do before dinner.”
And before I could even add to my long list, I heard, “You really have to be there.” And the memory of that gentle moment in the flower shop woke me up.
Hello? Earth to Lori. My 13 year old teenager had just initiated time with me, and I almost slept through it.
I put my pen down, looked at my daughter and said, “Do you know where the rackets are?”
We hit the tennis ball for fifteen minutes and her giggles refreshed my tired soul.
No, the time together didn’t solve life’s issues and problems and give me every answer I wrestle for, but it fed something hungry in me.
Fifteen minutes later, my daughter asked if she could come to the grocery store with me.
And my trip to the store changed from drudgery to time with my girl and even though my grocery bill was a lot higher than if I had just been by my tired self, it felt worth it.
My week is off to another busy start, but I am trying to listen to that voice that says, “You really have to be there.”
Who knew that angels worked in flower stores?