We were loading all our bags of food and supplies up on the curb for the short drive over to the church when a man stopped me to ask about the flowers. We had a bucket stuffed to capacity with colorful roses and peonies, all donations from a local flower shop in New York, Eros Flowers. Each week they give us their excess, flowers that are still stunningly beautiful but just slightly past their peak. We use them to decorate the tables of the church where we serve Free Food Harlem.
Arranging the flowers and passing them out is one of my favorite parts of the meal. They add an elegance and beauty to the tables, elevating the ambiance of the church basement and welcoming in our guests. I arrange the flowers, inhaling their sweet fragrance, marveling at their color and softness, and offering them to guests as they leave. I ask which color they want, giving them a choice, an option. Something that people receiving handouts on the street don’t often get.
Jeremiah loves the purple roses. I make a bouquet for him and place it on the table he always sits at, and can feel his joy when he walks in and sees it. He asks me to take a photo of him with the flowers and takes them home after the meal. Sassy tells me she likes yellow and white flowers for prosperity. I surprise her with a bouquet before she leaves for the day. Each patron who walks into our little church restaurant feels the beauty of the space and takes flowers home with them. We leave most of the bouquets at the church for the week, so they beautify the space even when we leave.
Back to the man on the street. I told him that the flowers weren’t for sale, that we were giving them away and serving them at our homeless meal. “God bless you,” he said. When I told him he could take whichever one he wanted, he asked me to choose one out for his wife, that’s who it was for. I picked a long stemmed dark pink rose, and handed it to him with a smile. I could barely even extricate it from the tangle of flowers in the very full bucket, but when I did and felt his joy, I could tell I had made his day. And he had made mine. My flower bucket was still overflowing, reminding me of all the abundance we have, and how giving it away, like we do every week with Free Food, has me appreciate it and enjoy it so much more.