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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18 comments:

Josi said...

As someone who things so highly of you, Tristi, I am grateful for the influence of these two people. That we can all have such an impact.

Kimberly said...

I saw the kindness and warmth of those beautiful people in your behaviour at the Storymaker's conference. Always a kind word, smile, or joke. You set nervous people like me at ease and made us feel welcome through your warmth. What a beautiful lesson this is.

Holly said...

Beautiful post Tristi.

L.T. Elliot said...

I needed this post desperately today. I needed to hear words of kindness, gratitude, and love. I needed to know that the Lord works in soft and quiet moments, whispering all things gentle and good to my heart. All that this post is, I needed. Thank you so much. You don't know how much it means to me.

Teri said...

I think the Lord puts people in our lives when we need them most. I hope that we are all influenced by the Spirit to be the person someone else needs. Thanks for the post! I'll have to sit and contemplate about all those that have influenced my life.

Framed said...

What a beautiful tribute. I'm just glad I stopped over today to readh your blog.

Anonymous said...

What an inspiring account. Thanks for sharing it.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

What a beautiful post, Tristi. Thank you for sharing it.

Luisa Perkins said...

Lovely, Tristi. And you definitely are one to pay it forward. Thanks for your goodness and generosity.

Lee Ann Setzer said...

Loved this. Thanks for making me think and cry.

Jen said...

Beautiful tribute Tristi.

Nichole Giles said...

Beautiful, Tristi. Isn't it amazing how we can--as adults--look back at our youth and remember certain people who brought about incredible things for us? And you're right-most of the time, those people weren't trying to be amazing or special--they were just being good people.

Just FYI, you're one of those people for me. But I think I might have mentioned that before...

Thanks for being the unique, special, beautiful woman that you are.

Marsha Ward said...

Thank you for sharing these tender thoughts and this tribute, Tristi.

Haley Hatch Freeman said...

What a beautiful and touching post. I'm glad your path crossed these two wonderful children of God. Thanks for sharing.

CTW said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful post and great message.

C.S. Bezas said...

Just beautiful, Tristi. You are carrying their heritage forward in beautiful ways. Thinking of you today!

Cami Checketts said...

Thanks for sharing this, Tristi.

Janice said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I, too, had a mentor as a teen who made all the difference. Truly the Lord is good to us! You are doing a wonderful job of passing on the Shelton's legacy. Every time I've met you, I've felt loved and welcomed and accepted. What a wonderful woman you are!

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