Dealing with the death of a child can be the hardest issue a parent can face.
Lisa Baker has turned tragedy into a smile – a smile shared with people who are strangers.
Baker, owner of Baker’s Baskets and Flowers at 16 Freeborne Street, has started “Evan’s Smile.” Evan’s Smile encourages people to think of others, which Baker follows up with the surprise delivery of a floral arrangement at no charge. She named the project for her son, Evan, who died at the age of 19 in June 2010.
While she said she started the store as a means to cope as well as to help others cope, Baker decided to take it a step further and is now performing random acts of kindness.
“It was something we talked about when we first opened the store and we implemented it a couple of times but never really followed through with it on a regular basis,” she said. “Now, we’re ready to go full throttle.”
During the past month, Baker and her loved ones delivered between 25 to 30 arrangements. A basket is delivered to a person experiencing difficulties each weekday, along with a thoughtful card. The goal is simply to put a smile on someone’s face.
The card reads: “We heard that you have had some challenges recently. I am a perfect example that we don’t know which path our life will take and that things can be difficult sometimes. I am sending you this arrangement for the only reason but to make you smile. I had a son that had a smile that was so beautiful and infectious, you couldn’t help but be sucked in by his boyish grin. In an effort to keep his legacy alive, we just want to pass the smiles along. Have a wonderful day.” It is signed by the Baker family and delivered at no charge.
The very first arrangement was sent to a woman suffering from cancer.
“We had gotten it to her a few days before she passed away,” said Baker. “Another woman was a single mom who owns a business and is just a phenomenal person, so we sent one out to her.”
Further, Baker said she recently had the opportunity to deliver one herself. She was pleased with the response.
“The woman immediately asked, ‘Who is this from?” and I said, ‘I don’t know. I’m just a delivery girl,’” she said. “Later on, I heard that it had made her day.”
Another woman who received an arrangement called Baker at the store and told her how touched she was by the gesture.
“She was crying and said, ‘It couldn’t have come at a better time,’ because her son was leaving to serve in the Army and she was really sad about that,” Baker said. “It made her smile, and that’s what it’s all about. The reaction from people is so wonderful. It’s the best part of the job.”
As a means to both involve and motivate the community, Baker placed a framed photo of Evan atop a box with a cutout in which people can insert the names and addresses of those who they feel most deserving of an unexpected treat.
“We have a lot of people that come in and tell us about people in need,” she said. “We have good relationships with our customers and they help us get the word out. And it’s all anonymous."
But Baker wants more people to get involved. She hopes to start a chain reaction.
The back portion of the card that’s attached to each arrangement, reads: “Did we make you smile? Let’s keep this going. Tell us about someone else that may need to smile today. Come into our store and vote.”
Baker adds, “With life being so busy it’s hard to stop in, but that’s the whole point: stop, come in and do something nice. We want people to come into the store, see Evan’s picture, and see what we’re doing and how important he was to us. I think he would think this is wonderful; that was the type of person he was.”
She said, “Usually, teenagers are pretty selfish, but he wasn’t at all. He really took it to heart what other people thought about him and what he did for other people. His smile was wonderful. The people that come in and see his picture will see that.”
For Baker, the movement, and the store itself, are a means of coping with the loss of her son. Since his death, she said she has realized the importance of connecting with the people in her life.
With tears in her eyes, she said, “It makes me feel really good. The purpose of opening the store was to just make people feel good. Ever since Evan died, I think about others more than I did before. I was someone who didn’t always put my relationships first because I’m so busy all the time, but it’s different now. It’s unfortunate that it takes something like that to happen, and I don’t want it to be like that for other people. Life is so busy, and people need to stop and think about the people that are around them. I just want to keep Evan’s legacy alive. He was a wonderful kid and I miss him like crazy.”
As for the movement, Baker doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I’d like to do it for as long as I can,” she said.
Baker’s Baskets and Flowers is a full-service florist that prepares gift, gourmet, fruit and fresh fruit baskets. They also sell candles and other gift shop items.