September 19, 2021
An old woman in a wheelchair goes down the alley and offers people to buy bouquets she has made herself. Everyone refuses her. Some are rude. Jack Stones hears all this and decides to act.
Jack Stones loved New York, and for him, the best of New York was Central Park. He was lucky enough to live in a building just a block away and take a long walk there every morning before breakfast.
New York had been very good to him, Jack thought to himself. He'd come to the Big Apple as a callow boy from Ohio, and he'd made his fortune here. He loved the city, its vibrant life, the eccentric people. Then one day he overheard a conversation that shocked him.
Jack was sitting on a bench on one of the wide tree-lined alleys that traversed the park when he noticed a young couple across the way. He grinned. They were so obviously in love!
An old lady in a wheelchair with a basket of red roses in her lap obviously thought so too, and quickly wheeled herself over for an easy sale. "A red rose means love forever!" she said with a sweet smile.
The man looked at the girl and smiled. "Forever is right! How much are the roses?" he asked.
"Twelve dollars!" the woman said, "Thirty dollars for three!"
"What?" cried the man, "That's highway robbery! I can buy a rose for five dollars at the florist! Take your flowers and stick them!"
Giving people work instead of charity allows them to keep their dignity.
The man's girlfriend chimed in: "You think you can rob us because you're in a wheelchair? That's disgusting!"
The flower woman turned away quickly, but not before Jack saw the flush of shame coloring her face and the tears in her eyes. "I'm not a beggar," she said quietly. "You don't want my roses, fine, but you don't have to be rude."
She started to wheel herself away and Jack jumped to his feet. "Excuse me!" he cried to the woman, "It's my anniversary and I forgot to get my wife a gift. If you sell me those roses you'll save my life!"
The woman wheeled around with a radiant smile. "I'll make you a special price!" she said. "How many do you want?"
"I'll take them all!" Jack said and pushed a wad of bills into the woman's hands. He walked into his office an hour later and cheerfully went around distributing the roses.
The next morning Jack was there at the same time and once again he walked up to the woman in the wheelchair and bought all her roses. "It can't be your anniversary again," she cried.
"No," said Jack with a wink. "But those roses are magic... I had the most romantic night of my life!"
Over the next week, Jack would walk over and buy the woman's entire stock of roses, day after day, and one morning he said: "Since I'm such a good customer, how about you have coffee with me?"
He and the woman (whose name was Darlene) had coffee and she told him about her life and her troubles. A few weeks later, Jack had a breakfast meeting with Carter Glock, one of the firm's new partners and they met at the park.
They were walking towards the cafe when Jack saw Darlene with her basket of roses. "Hey, Darlene!" he cried, reaching for his wallet, "I'll have the usual!"
Darlene handed over the roses with a smile. "That will be $120, Mr. Stones," she said. "Your wife is a lucky woman and you can tell her I said so!"
"I will, Darlene, I will," said Jack and paid for the flowers.
He and Carter continued walking and after a long silence, Carter said to Jack, "You don't have a wife, as far as I hear, and you don't even date."
"Nope, I don't," said Jack. "But Darlene doesn't know that."
"But... Why do you buy flowers from that woman? You don't need them, and they are much more expensive than at the florist across the way from the park!"
"I know," Jack said calmly. "But I can afford the roses and Darlene needs the money. Her son is on disability, and with her pension, they barely make ends meet. That's why she sells the flowers in the park, from morning till night, seven days a week."
"Why don't you simply give her the money?" asked Carter. "Why the whole pantomime about the wife?"
"Darlene is a woman who has worked hard her whole life. Charity would shame her," Jack explained. "So I buy the roses, and she gets to keep her dignity and her pride, and I get to make a few ladies happy every morning."
"What do you mean?" asked Carter.
"Well, I distribute the roses on a different floor of our office every morning," Jack said. "And bring a little beauty into a few lives. Seems like a fair trade to me!"
Carter looked thoughtful. The next morning, Darlene discovered that she had a new regular customer for her roses and had to double her order with her supplier.
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