Tuesday, June 30, 2009
You Never Know
When I was seventeen, I took a correspondence course in floral design. Upon completion, I walked down the road to the little floral shop on the corner and asked the owners if I could work there, for free, to get some hands-on experience. They said yes, and that is how I met Burt and Nina Shelton, two people who were to become hugely influential in my life.
My parents divorced a few years previously, and I thought I was handling it well enough until my mother announced she was getting remarried and would be moving to California. My sister took me in so I could stay in Utah, and that period of time was extremely difficult for me. Getting an apprenticeship with the Sheltons pulled me out of a very dark place and gave me a foundation upon which I could stand as I moved forward.
Burt was a very gentle man, fatherly and protective. Nina was full of love, and from the moment I started working there, I felt her reach out to me with that love and shelter me in a cocoon.
My efforts at floral design were clumsy at first. Having learned everything I knew from books, my hands weren’t used to holding the knife, manipulating the floral tape, and doing one thing with one hand while doing something else with the other. Nina was a patient teacher and showed me what to do while never patronizing me. Instead, she asked me to share some of the things I’d learned from my books. She’d never taken a class in floral design and instead went with her guts, so I shared my book learning and she shared her instincts. I’d trust her instincts over a book any day.
Working there, I didn’t just learn about how to arrange flowers, although I was taught many things and loved every minute of it. I didn’t just learn how to take orders, care for the flowers in the cooler, and order new supplies from the wholesaler, although those things were certainly part of the job. I learned what it meant to be Christlike by watching Burt and Nina. I learned what charity and compassion were really all about.
I did a lot of emotional healing while working at the shop. I crossed the threshold from confused teenager to independent young woman. Nina became a mentor to me and a surrogate mother, and she shepherded me over some rough bumps. When I started to date the man who would become my husband, I was anxious for Burt and Nina to meet him. Their approval meant just as much to me as my own parents’ did.
Nina passed away from cancer just a few short years after I left the shop to get married. I miss her on a daily basis. Her sweet goodness touched my soul and affected my life in too many ways to measure. Her obituary read, in part, “She truly was a woman without guile,” and I agree with that wholeheartedly. I have never met a woman with so much genuine integrity, and she made all the difference in my life at a crucial time.
But she didn’t know that. When I started working at the shop, she had no way of knowing how fragile I felt or what I was going through. Of course, over time I told her everything, but her service to me was offered before she knew how badly I really needed it. She took me in, not knowing how much I needed to be taken in.
I wonder how many of those around us need that kind of sheltering. Do we wait for someone to express a need before we look for ways to serve them, or do we listen to the promptings of the Spirit and offer our help as guided? You never know what the person standing next to you might be suffering, and they might never speak it aloud.
I’m grateful to the Sheltons for so many things, for years of apprenticeship that turned into a job, for making me an assistant manager which helped me acquire other jobs down the road, but mostly for the friendship which was so needed in my life at that time. I firmly feel our Heavenly Father led me down that path to enable me to have the experience of being loved by two of His most humble servants, and I hope someday I can pass on that kind of friendship to someone else. You never know who might need the love you carry in your heart.
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