Jewish Family Service Notes: If you’re having a bad day...

By: Roz Antoun

...Read on and I’ll share my secret for making it better. Be patient, enjoy the journey and sooner or later you’ll understand where I am going with this.
So, last Thursday, I bounded out of bed at 6:05 am, afraid that if I hit the snooze button I’d oversleep and miss the Broome County Council of Churches “Lives of Commitment” breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel. Let me tell you, 7:15 am is way too early for me to be anywhere, whether it’s a nice breakfast or a bus trip to see my grandkids. I don’t like breakfast foods or having people around me before I’ve had two cups of coffee. But I wanted to attend this event to honor two friends, so I pushed myself, managed my morning routine and walked the half mile over to the hotel. I arrived as a semi-functional person. All good, right? Especially the piping hot, fresh brewed coffee.
The event was lovely and I’d love to spend pages giving you the details, but that’s not my purpose here. My goal is to tell you about the experiences I had on my way home after Sue Spencer, who directs the Faith in Action program, asked that we each take a fresh peach-colored rose from the table centerpieces.
In past years, I didn’t take the flower, but this time I did. My friend watched me gather my stuff to get ready to leave and then she put her rose in my hand, thinking that I was going home before work and could put them in a vase. Then another friend gave me two more. The thought flashed through my mind that I had to carry these thorny flowers through downtown Binghamton as I walked home because I didn’t have my car. Ingeniously, I found a paper place mat, wrapped the stems in it to protect my hands and proceeded on my way. I presume I looked a bit strange carrying this bouquet, but it fit in with the ambiance of the morning. These days, any event that I attend that points out the good in people is a plus in my book. Maybe it’s my age or the landscape in which we find ourselves, but I am craving kindness, caring and stability. This event touched my heart and left me thinking about the various benefits of performing mitzvot.
And, as I walked along the Promenade by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Chenango River, gray clouds blocking out any rays of sun, I wondered what I was going to do with the roses. I thought I might give them to some elderly infirm people in my apartment building.
At the bridge on Court Street I turned right, walked up to Front Street and waited at the crosswalk for the light to change, when a somewhat bedraggled young woman pushing a stroller came toward me. Her greasy hair and worn clothing, along with the look of exhaustion on her face, told me she could use a pick-me-up. I caught her eye, picked out one of the flowers from the bunch and said, “Can I give you this flower?” She was quiet for a moment, reached out her thin hand to take the rose and with a smile, she said, “Oh, yes.” And I smiled a big smile back.
Once again, I was on my way, all the while thinking about the impact that rose had on the woman who took it, and the impact of our encounter on me.
Then I came to Riverside and Front, waited at the crosswalk for the light to change and walked to the other side of the street. Suddenly, a woman in a shiny black SUV rolled down her window and yelled to me, “Oh, those are such beautiful flowers. I’ve been watching you.” “Yes, they are,” I agreed. “Would you like one?” I handed the rose to her through the open window. Her wide smile spoke for us both.
“Wow,” I thought to myself. These small gestures made those two people’s day, but especially mine. My heart was full.
Two roses went to good homes, two remained. As I approached my apartment building, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them: give them to our maintenance woman, who brings a positive spirit into my life whenever I see her. And again, more big smiles.
I must admit that I had a little guilt about all of this because I didn’t actually buy the flowers. Should that make a difference? I think I’ll continue to mull over that philosophical question for a while longer.
But, what I learned is, the next time I am having a lousy day, I am going to buy some flowers and perk up someone else’s day. I’m sure mine will be perked up, too.