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Our Children in Old Scotland and Nova Scotia
Chapter VII - Flower Mission Children


THE heading of this chapter brings before me a different set of children from those I have been telling you about, but of whom I saw a great deal, and by whose kindness I was enabled to do a most pleasant piece of work for many years. They were the Flower Mission Children of Burntisland. I daresay many of them will read this little book, and will like to remember as well as I do, our lovely and fragrant flower mission, the fruit of which will, I doubt not, be seen many days hence. Therefore I shall take the liberty of reminding them of it, and telling strangers of a beautiful work which these children did, and which I never think of without longing that it could return, very much as in winter one thinks of last summer’s flowers, and wishing they were with us again. The summer will come, and bring its flowers for those who are here to see them, and I cannot doubt that in the endless summer above, the seed sown by the Flower Mission children will blossom abundantly in the garden of God.

The Burntisland Flower Mission began and grew in the manner following :— When I used to drive from Wardie to the Day Nursery for my day’s work there, very often, for the sake of a little more fresh air, I went round by St. Cuthbert’s poorhouse, and each time I passed I felt a greater longing to get inside of that institution, and see if I might be allowed to take with me a little pleasure and comfort to its inmates. I always had a great fancy for visiting in poorhouses, chiefly, I think, because at that time the inmates seemed so cut off from the outside world (I fancy it is better now), so lonely, so in need of the good news of God’s love—in fact, of good news of any kind, even of human love; and in those cases where being there was most obviously their own doing, still they were the sinners Jesus came to save, and seemed to me more accessible than prosperous sinners outside. For all these reasons I had found my visits acceptable in country poor-houses, and now that my lot was cast near the city, I thought I would try there too. But what excuse could I make? At last it occurred to me that having again become the fortunate possessor of a garden, from which I was careful to provide the "Sunday flower" on Saturday, I might take some flowers to the Hospital. It had been our custom all my life in my old home to have this regularly attended to, and I have great belief in the blessing that goes with a Sunday flower, for I believe in flowers as a direct means of grace. They surely carry the message of God’s love to us, and His desire for our happiness and pleasure. He would not have sown them all over the earth, as He has done, if this were not so. Therefore it occurred to me to inquire whether flowers would be acceptable, or permitted, in the poorhouse. Finding they would be welcomed if there were enough for all, in the hospital for instance, so as not to excite jealousy, I speculated as to how I could get so many, and the stipulation seemed almost prohibitory, as the hospital had 250 beds, alas, apparently always full.

I noticed just at this time in some periodical an account of a "Flower Mission" in London. The name was new to me, but it seemed exactly the idea I wanted, and I lost no time in writing to the lady whose address was given. I forget her name, and the address of the mission now, but I believe it was the first of the kind in London, the result of which has been the spread of flower missions all over the world. In answer to my inquiry I received a most kind reply, approving highly of my idea, and giving practical information as to how to set about the work, at the same time dwelling much on the necessity for accompanying the flowers by a text from the Word of God, which was most easily conveyed by being written or printed (by hand) on a simple bouquet holder, a large number of which could be had for a nominal sum, at the headquarters of the

Mission. In my case it seemed to me they were supplied gratis! It then occurred to me I should be more likely to succeed in obtaining a supply of flowers, if I made known my desires in Burntisland. To those who do not know the neighbourhood of Edinburgh intimately, I may explain that at that time, before the Forth Bridge was built, Burutisland was a place of some importance to the travelling public, being the point to which the ferryboat of the North British Railway conveyed passengers crossing the Forth from Edinburgh to Fife and the North of Scotland. It was a quiet little town, lying close to the Forth, well sheltered by the Fife hills, with lovely woods stretching westward to Aderdour, and the whole country side celebrated for wild flowers.

For some years previously, while I was an invalid, I was much in Burntisland, and had many friends among the children of all classes. With the assistance of twelve of the elder girls it seemed easy to have a very efficient flower mission band. We discovered Mr. Wood (bookseller) was strongly in sympathy with us, and he most kindly agreed to allow the contributions to be brought to his shop on Friday, from 6 to 8 p.m., on condition that each evening two of my young friends who were known as stewardesses should attend to receive them, and pack them in the large tin box provided for that purpose, [Note. —The duties of the stewardesses did not end here. They undertook to make tea and amuse the children at the happy tea-party with which we wound up the proceedings at the close of each season, after the last Friday of September. We began with primroses! To show the popularity of the Mission, the contributors numbered over 300.] which was sent across the Forth to me early the next morning. I had thus plenty of time to put the finishing touches to our bouquets before taking them to the hospital at the visitors’ hours. Our success was complete, and we were also able to supply the old people regularly at Kinghorn Poorhouse, about three miles from Burntisland. The effect was most touching.

The flowers were treasured from one week to another—better still, the texts were kept as a precious possession, and the simple words of love and comfort repeated to me over and over again, reverently and gratefully by quivering lips, which I fear had in the olden time been more familiar with oaths. I was assured by the nurses that the softening of many hearts was not confined to Saturday afternoon, but was very apparent at other times.

One very desolate, gentle old woman, who had always been most grateful for the flowers, and had expressed most earnestly her trust in Jesus, had just passed away at my next visit. I was taken by the nurse to her bedside, and on her breast were laid the withered flowers of last Saturday, and all the little texts of weeks before. The nurse whispered, "Give me one for her to-day, ma'am, a white one. She thought so much of them, and begged to have them buried with her." 1 believe from what she had told me she knew and loved the Saviour.

The matron told me she had never seen anything have so great an effect in softening roughness, and producing good humour in the place. She therefore asked that if I could manage it, I would bring large bunches of common flowers and stick in them a few texts mounted on wire, for the day-rooms in the main house. She was much gratified with the result, and told me she had often seen rough, apparently callous men, irresistibly attracted by the flowers, and reading the texts again and again, who had never appeared to notice anything else in the way of religion. Let us hope that even in their case the promise was fulfilled, that " My word shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

And did the children who did this work get no blessing, do you think? I believe they received a great blessing—in better acquaintance with God’s word—when they searched for texts most suited to the sick and sorrowful,—in greater enjoyment of their gardens when they gave their flowers to carry a message of hope and comfort to those who needed both sadly, and the blessing which the Lord Jesus Christ promised to all who should give even a cup of cold water to any needy one, however humble and insignificant, if given in His name. I believe these children, who gave their play-time, sympathy, sweet flowers, and carefully selected texts, got a great blessing in their own souls, as all do who try to make the world better and happier for Jesus’ sake. I have told this story of their lovely and successful work in the hope that some other children may be encouraged either to join or to begin a Flower Mission on their own account. Even outside hospitals and workhouses there are many to whom such a gift as a Sunday flower would be most acceptable. And there are many bright little boys and girls, who are often sadly in want of "something to do," whose clever fingers and pretty colour-boxes might find pleasant and useful work on wet days in painting borders round bouquet holders, printing texts on the same, and when the rain is over and the sun shines, could gather many sweet flowers to rejoice sad hearts and weary eyes in less cheerful places than have fallen to their own happy lot. Dear young reader, will you try? If you will, I am sure you will find there is great pleasure in being one of the Flower Mission children.

God might have made the earth bring forth
Enough for great and small,
The oak tree and the cedar tree
Without a flower at all.

He might have made enough, enough
For every want of ours;
Enough for medicine, food and toil,
And
yet have made no flowers!

Then wherefore, wherefore were they made,
All dyed with rainbow light,
Laden with sweet and rare perfume
Upspringing day and night?

Springing amid the meadows fair
And on the mountains high,
And in the silent wilderness
Where no man passeth by?

To whisper to the heart of man,
When
faith and hope are dim,
That He who careth for the flowers,
Will much more care for him!

MARY HOWITT.


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