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Unboxing Blooms

September 1, 2017

by Sarena James

A few groceries. That’s what I went in for. That’s what I thought I was getting. That’s what I had enough time for anyway. Potatoes, grapes, juice, and a few things more. Go in. Come out. That was the uninterrupted plan. There were long lines. (Holiday weekends ensure that.) But one line had just one person in front of me. So I steered my cart in that direction. It shouldn’t take too long.

Then, I saw him. “D.” He looked directly at me and waved to me. There he was, and in a sea of people, he saw me. A kind gentleman, always. Highly observant, always. Meticulous in his method of bagging groceries, always. “D” saw me and waved, and in my mind that was enough for me to move my grocery cart from the shortest line to the longest line. “D” helped the customer ahead of me to her car, and came back directly. “Hi.” He said in his monotone voice. I returned the greeting energetically and we exchanged a few words while he put my groceries in bags. I paid, and he turned to walk me out.

“There’s s bug on your shirt.” Again, monotone.

“Oh my goodness where?”

“In front of you. Now the bug is in front of you. It was on your shirt. The bug was on your shirt.”

“Thank you so much for letting me know “D!” I didn’t see it.”

I’ve had interactions here with “D” for a while. He’s always spoken with the same monotone voice no matter the subject. I appreciate him. He works hard. He notices people and things that most don’t, and that makes me wonder how many people notice him. Being on the autism spectrum is not easy. Social exchanges, exposures, and experiences are often awkward, challenging. I’ve watched “D” navigate through it time and time again. But today he did something different. (Holding back tears now thinking about it.) “D” put the last bag of groceries in my car and closed the trunk. I thanked him. Then he put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a small pink and green paper box made of construction paper, and held his hand out toward mine.

“Wow! Is this for me “D?”

“Yes. This is for you,” he responded.

“Did you make this?”


“What a nice box.”

“It’s not a box.”

“It’s not?”

“It’s not a box. He took it out of my hand and began to unfold it.21230760_1655388977828039_8192150726630832429_n

“It’s a flower. It’s a flower and this flower will never die.”

“Oh my goodness, it’s beautiful!”

“It will always bloom.”

“You’re right “D” and I will put it in a special place! Thank you so much!”

He helped another customer to their car and came back around to me. He unfolded the flower even more. “It will always bloom.” He left.

I thought it was a box. A box. That’s what these beautiful souls are often put into. A box because it’s easier. A box because that’s a known, identifiable shape, that can simply be put away. Taking just a few minutes more time with him though revealed a beautiful bloom. Intricate and delicate and unique. He gave me more in that moment than anything available on that store’s shelf.

He gave of himself. His creativity. A box that was never meant to stay that way, but meant to bloom in front of anyone with the willingness to wait to see it.

“It will always bloom.”

I think his words will echo in the ear of my heart for long time to come. Always be willing to peel back another layer. Always expect growth. Always unbox the stereotypes and assumptions, rooted in laziness and fear that keep you from connecting to someone different than yourself. A box or a bloom? One stays closed. The other opens into something so beautiful…


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