Special Delivery: Flowers for the Mean Lady

It was a hot summer day. I had just graduated from high school and was working a summer job to make some side money for college. I was a flower delivery guy – bringing happiness to people and getting paid $7.50 an hour at the same time. It didn’t get much better than that.

This was almost 20 years ago now, but I’ll never forget one of my deliveries. I drove up to the house, knocked on the door, and a young lady answered. There I was, as cheerful as could be, with a big smile on my face and an even bigger bouquet of flowers in my hands. I introduced myself and asked the lady how she was doing. With a very cold and emotionless face, one that said she hated the world and that I was no exception, she replied: “I’ve been better.” I was so annoyed that day. You go out of your way to be nice to people and sometimes you get quite the opposite in return. Perhaps she thought she was better than me. After all, I was just a flower delivery boy making $7.50 an hour.

Coincidentally enough, a day or two after that, she got another delivery. I decided to give her another chance. I knocked on her door and was very nice and cheerful. But I was met with the same mean look and unimpressed tone. This time, I was borderline angry.

Lo and behold, she received some more flowers, but this time, I would get my revenge. I walked up to the door, with a stern look on my face far meaner than any look she would be able to make, and said with the coldest voice possible, “You have flowers. Sign this.” I walked away, feeling like I had regained some of my dignity. Thankfully, I was able to build on it when she received more flowers the next day. I made sure I had my stern face on when I went to the door, and spoke as coldly as possible without saying anything that would get me fired. “Here. Sign.” I said as I shoved the clip board in her hands. She took the flowers and I left.

The words that were exchanged between us that day were very few, but I do remember feeling that I had hopefully done just enough to ruin her day as much as she ruined mine a couple of days earlier. And it was a good feeling. Regardless of how it had impacted her day, if at all, I at least felt much better about myself now.

Several days later, I came across an article in the local newspaper. The title read: “Eight Year Old Boy Crushed by a Garage Door.” The article described neighbors who were walking by a house and saw the legs of a little child sticking out of the garage, with his chest pinned under the garage door. They ran and beat on the front door of the house where a family was inside having dinner. It gave details of the boy’s mother, running out hysterically, seeing her child and screaming, “My baby! My baby!” as she tried with all her strength to lift the garage door off him, but just didn’t have enough strength to do so. More neighbors saw what was happening and rushed over to help, and collectively were able to get the garage door up just enough to drag his limp body onto the driveway. His body was lifeless, his face was blue. One of the neighbors tried to give him CPR, but it was too late. What a horrific scene that article painted, as I tried to avoid reenacting it in my mind. Finally, when I saw the name of the street, it all hit me. I finally understood why so many people would be sending flowers to such a “mean” lady. And now that I’m a father, I can only imagine what must have been going on in her world at that time – an incident which probably still haunts her to this day.

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There I was, so upset that she couldn’t force a smile back at me, when she was probably going through the most difficult thing anyone has to go through in their life – she had just buried her own child.

 

I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Let the little things go, and have some compassion with people. You never know what struggles they’re going through in their lives.

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9 responses to “Special Delivery: Flowers for the Mean Lady”

  1. What a sad and moving story. Jazak Allah khayr. It’s a powerful reminder that we must always be kind, even when it is not reciprocated. We must be agents of hope in the lives of others. Every single human being is fighting his/her own internal battle, even when we do not see it. I think we often interpret other people’s attitudes as arrogance, coldness or uninterest, when in reality what they are feeling is insecurity, guilt, shame, or sadness.

  2. Azmath says:

    Moving story, did you apologize to her afterwards?

  3. Muslimah DownUnder says:

    Amazing story. This shows that we never know the battles others are fighting. We should just be kind to everyone and smile….who knows…a smile can go a long way for someone who is experiencing difficulties…

  4. Maryam says:

    Jazaki Allaahu Khairan Br. Ehab

    Very relevant article in these times that we all live in.

    It reminds me of the sayings/proverbs:

    “Let the sleeping dogs lie”.
    “Let bygones be bygones”.
    “Let’s bury the hatchet”.

    May we all be given the grace and patience to stay cool, calm, and collected even when the entire world is all against us, Allaahuma aameen! It’s not easy but with Islamic maturity and patience, we’ll scale through.

    Jannah is not easy to attain. May Allaah aid us in this journey, aameen.

    Your article relates to most of us, youth and adults alike, who find ourselves in these kinds of situations, almost everyday of our lives.

    Khayr in sha Allaah.

  5. Riaz Ahmed says:

    Dear Ehab Hassan,

    Congratulations on doing such wonderful thing to motivate and uplift the youth. I was so impressed with your article Flower for the mean lady” that I decided to borrow some of the content of your article to describe my similar experience, while in UAE back in 19987, with an Indian gentleman Mr. Jaswinder Sing. I would like to share the same article with you as a tribute to your good work.
    Be Always Kind….
    In year 1997 on my way back to Pakistan from United Kingdom I had a short stay in United Arab Emirates to meet my family members. While, my stay in UK under the influence of their social behavior, I had developed affixed smile on my face unconsciously, expecting the same in return.
    Considering my FMCG supply chain experience, I was requested by my cousin to assist him in launching a trading company by providing consultancy to his Indian Origin Manager , Mr. Jaswinder Sing. There I was a cheerful person, with a big smile on my face opening conversation with Mr. Sing only to get a disappointment seeing his very cold and emotionless face. I was so annoyed for going out of my way to be nice only to get the opposite in return and was quick to arrive on a conclusion that since Mr. Sing was an Indian, so he hates me for being a Pakistani. My ego was so hurt that I decided to pay back Mr. Sing in same coin to get the revenge. Over the next few days I put on a strenuous look on my face and added coldness in my voice, giving me a secret joy and satisfaction.
    It was only after few more days that reality struck me like a lightening and left me numb with utter shame and sense of embarrassment over my changed behavior towards Mr. Sing. Sensing an air of unease between two of us my cousin intervened and informed me that Mr. Jaswinder Sing was in mourning of his two sons and beautiful wife who died in a car crash few months back ….. Mr. Sing was under so much grief that he was barely managing to live alive let alone enjoy the witty remarks hurled on him by me or for that matter anyone else.
    That day, I learned a very valuable lesson to let the little things go, and have some compassion with people. One never know what struggles they’re going through in their lives and how life is treating them at that particular time. This is a powerful reminder that we must always be kind, even when it is not reciprocated. We must be agents of hope in the lives of others rather adding salt to their injury. We might not see it but this is a fact that every single human being is fighting his / her own internal battle. We often interpret other people’s attitudes as arrogance, coldness or uninterested, when in reality what they are feeling is insecurity, guilt, shame, or sadness. So let be always kind to others so this kindness may return to us when we need it most.

  6. Saman Khan says:

    Such a nice article and enjoyed the comments section as well. I would also like to share a similar story. Growing up in Pakistan, I used to play with my Neighbour’s kids and their mother always had these stern expressions and would never greet us properly when we visited her house. Now that we are older, once my brother said to me, “you know I didn’t like her a bit. She didn’t have a nice ikhlaaq (disposition) as opposed to her husband who was always cheerful.” I informed him that you weren’t aware of her husband activities-jobless, who would prefer not to work and live on his wife’s income at her house with four kids-it must have added pressure and maybe she wasn’t so unfriendly always…

    You know… always stay open-minded, understand the circumstances of others and always give others the benefit of doubt.

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