In the supermarket I evaluated crimson tulips briefly before putting them in the basket. My son, who is 10 years old, asked why I buy flowers with our groceries. I bubbled over, excited to part some wisdom with my child. I told him the parable that I had heard sometime in college – that if you have two pennies left in all the world, buy a loaf of bread and a flower with the other. You cannot have one without the other. Coming from a family where it felt like all we had in the world was two pennies, and we always gave one to ourselves and one to our congregation, it resonated with me deeply. Around the time I heard this saying is when I started buying flowers weekly and giving generously to causes I believed in as well as my church.
I was ready to engage him about the virtue of flowers, because that always seems to be what people challenge, but he already knew. “Of course,” he said, “what is life without beauty?” You’ll have to excuse my parental pride that wells over, astonished that a 10 year old already understands how to balance bread with beauty.
Of course, bread is just as essential. One of the most memorable quotes from Gandhi is that “There are people in the world who are so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” If you’ve only got only one penny, well, buy the bread. It is my ministerial mission to ensure that everyone knows that they are sacred, and that they will not be fed with flowers when they ask for bread.
But the bread that should be given should not be the kind we ourselves would pass over. Everyone should have bread and roses. A practical way to live and an inspiration to keep on living. Even if we have only two pennies left in all the world and are assaulted on all sides, buying a flower anyway turns us away from a scarcity mindset and into abundance. It is not foolish optimism but a faithful promise to ourselves that we deserve the best, and that we will give the best to everyone.