The deacons’ flower fund was often referred to as the “widows’ flower fund,” due to the fact that the majority of expenditures went for flowers sent to funerals of male members of the church. It was a rather large church, with a quite populous senior membership. The eighteen men serving as deacons reflected this disproportion. In fact, I was the only deacon under the age of forty, or fifty for that matter. Sadly, the “widow’s flower fund” was not a dormant account, by any means.
Every month I gave a report of how much money was in the account, what flowers had been sent out for what funeral, and so forth. It was a fairly routine part of the monthly deacons’ meetings. Oh, there was sometimes a comment here or there concerning the report, but generally the men sat quietly while I talked, sipping their early morning coffee.
Joe wasn’t one of the prominent members of the deacon body. He didn’t live in an affluent neighborhood or drive nearly as nice a car as most of the rest of the older heads that served as deacon. His dress wasn’t as sharp and he had a difficult time hearing a lot of what was being said at the meetings, despite the hearing aids he wore in both ears. His glasses were seemingly an inch thick and Joe rarely spoke up at meetings, generally sitting off to the side by himself.
But there was a servant’s heart the size of Mount Rushmore beating inside Joe. He was the first to help out anyone in a time of need. He probably did more unseen, unheard of deeds for others in the church than the rest of us deacons combined. He was a deacon’s deacon.
As I rambled through my flower fund report one particular month, I felt an air of opposition to an expenditure that had been made. A somewhat regular attender of our church had passed away and the deacon officers had instructed me to make the normal purchase of a spray of flowers to be delivered to the funeral home, which I had done.
“Am I to understand that we now are sending flowers to the funerals of non-members of the church?”
The question pierced the air of meeting room, and several sets of bushy eyebrows raised in sudden curiosity. Before I could respond, the chairman of the deacons responded that the order was authorized by the officers, and that the deceased was well known throughout the church.
“But he wasn’t a member, was he?”
And with that, the discussion was on. This group opposed the purchase, while that group saw nothing wrong with it. As disagreements tend to do, the issue soon expanded and got rather heated. After a few minutes motions were flying that would define procurement procedures and guidelines for how, when, and who would receive these grand gestures of kindness on our behalf.
The volume and intensity were about a fever pitch when suddenly from his isolated seat, Joe rose from his chair and barked, “Stop this nonsense, right now!”
A dead silence fell over the room as Joe stood at the table, as red in the face as I’d ever seen him.
“First of all, it was a $35.00 expense.” Joe reached in his back pocket and pulled out an old brown leather wallet. Tossing out a twenty, a ten, and a five he said, “There, covered.” What he said next has stayed with me to this day.
“Now, I have a proposal of my own to make. Instead of worrying so gall dern much about sending flowers for the dead, why don’t we start thinking about ways to show love towards folk whilst they’re still alive! I know people in this church that aren’t doing too well, need their house worked on and cain’t afford it, could use help paying for food and bills. I got an idea: let’s take that money for a six month trial period and go out and find people that we can truly help. I guarantee you, the results from that little test will be a lot more satisfyin’ than what’s gone on in here this morning!”
The discussion ended as an air of conviction fell over the group. Joe started back for his corner seat. But then he turned and said one more lasting comment.
“Oh, by the way, send me my flowers whilst I’m still alive.”
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