The Flower Vendor


I love sunflowers. They have a special meaning for me.

In SOHO there is a corner flower shop. It has dark red awnings and the Chinese shopkeeper's name is boldly lettered on the awning. Red, almost magenta, bench shelving is stacked on the sidewalk against the shop windows, on which sit beautifully displayed flower arrangements.

I have walked by that flower shop many times - a brilliant burst of nature on a busy New York street corner. In the morning, as the sun comes up, walking by this this flower shop gives you a dazzling colorful wake-up shot unrivaled by even the best double-shot of espresso. You just can't help but face the morning head-on.

As I walked through SOHO on a Saturday morning, I passed that flower shop. It was early, and the shopkeeper was outside in his green apron, watering his flowers and plants. Occasionally he would stop, and adjust a flower arrangement, picking a leaf, fanning out a bouquet and adjusting his display.

Sitting on the upper left shelf was a simple black plastic pot with three sunflowers planted in it and I decided I wanted that sunshine in my hotel room.

I approached the flower vendor and told him I would like to buy the sunflowers.

"They are not for sale," he said.

I was confused, and frankly I thought I had misunderstood.

But I had not misunderstood.

All the flowers in the shop were for sale...but not this modest pot with its three sunflowers. The flower vendor explained to me that sunflowers, in China, symbolize happiness; that their inclination to lean into the sun is a symbol of how we lean into our faith, always searching for light in our life. This pot of sunflowers was not for sale.

It was for him.

To this shopkeeper, a simple sunflower, in the midst of a sea of flowers, was his center. It gave him focus.

I like that.

Sometimes, surrounded by my everyday routine and the people I value, I know that I sometimes start to take it all for granted; I lose focus and gratitude for the gifts, the blessings.

It is why we need to know what centers us, to remind ourselves of that, to explore that daily.

So that we stay focused on what really matters.

So that we are grateful.

I didn't buy another plant for my room that day.
I left that flower shop, loving sunflowers even more.

(illustration by Isabella Hutley)