Janet Sheridan: The good people of Craig

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Janet Sheridan

March 9 opened poorly. It began with incessant ranting on the early morning news shows about the falling sky. Exercising, which usually delights me when it ends, didn’t do the trick. The coffee ran out. I made more, but it tasted like tar because the potato peels drifting in the gray water of the plugged garbage disposal distracted me.

I spent the morning working on a column, but my sentences seemed awkward and unimportant. To make matters worse, the sun-dominated afternoon beckoned me outdoors, but I couldn’t take a walk because I was obligated. I had flowers to sell.

Hospice eased my Dad’s death. It allowed him to stay home and alleviated his concerns about being a burden. To show my appreciation and to help raise funds for the VNA’s hospice program, I had agreed to sell daffodils at Safeway or City Market that afternoon.

As though reflecting my grumpy mood, the sky darkened and a cold breeze accompanied my walk across the springtime grit in Safeway’s parking lot. As I approached the table display of daffodils, I wondered if I had dressed warmly enough to sit for 2 hours or if I’d greet people with a literal frozen smile on my face.

The volunteer I replaced didn’t leap up, grab her purse and dash away, exclaiming, “Oh, you’re finally here,” but seemed to have enjoyed herself. She took time orienting me, and I felt my mood shift in response to her good spirit.

“They’ve been selling well,” she told me as she left. “Have fun.”

To my surprise, I did. The people of Craig made my day.

Faces brightened at the sight of the delicate yellow symbols of hope and spring. One lady told me she looked forward to the sale every year; it meant she had survived another winter. Several expressed appreciation of hospice workers: “Their help allowed me to focus on my mother and enjoy the days I had left with her.”

Toddlers seemed particularly attracted to the cheerfulness of the display. They pointed, whispered “Flower!” and stretched tiny fingertips to touch the blossoms. One offered me a bite of the fruit roll he was chewing. He didn’t seem offended when I declined.

A friend rode up on a bicycle and left with a bouquet in his backpack. A slow moving older fellow in a weathered cowboy hat wanted to surprise his wife at home. She’d been sick, and the flowers might help. Would I pick out a couple of good bunches for him?

A teenage boy with a shy smile bought three bouquets and exited, looking pleased, without volunteering a word. A young girl solemnly counted out coins. Twice, she dropped some and lost count but refused my help. To her dismay, she eventually discovered she had only $4.52. She left with the best bunch I could find.

Even those who didn’t stop to buy made eye contact, greeted me or nodded hello.

And — a true blessing to a writer who spent the morning struggling with uninspired words — several customers mentioned my columns.

And I thought I had better things to do with my day? Oh, foolish, foolish.

When Megan, a pretty high school student with perfect skin and poise beyond her years, relieved me, I felt like I do when I finish a good book — sad to leave folks I’d enjoyed.

I drove home through blowing dust, feeling chilled, but happy — my unpleasant day redeemed by the good people of Craig.

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