Project Joy is a ministry of The Shepherd’s Center aimed at lifting the spirits of those we know are in need of encouragement, care, sympathy, remembrance, celebration, appreciation, or acknowledgment. Each Thursday morning, volunteers gather to arrange bouquets of flowers donated by a generous wholesaler. On Thursday afternoon, other volunteers arrive to pick up the bouquets and deliver them to those The Shepherd’s Center staff has identified.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Vase

It wasn’t an heirloom. It hadn’t been hand-blown by an artisan. It didn’t have a unique shape or color, but it had magical powers once it left the workroom at The Shepherd’s Center. In the loving hands of Anna Marie and her mother, The Vase transformed itself each week. Holding the season’s most delicate and fragrant of blossoms; Sheila picked up The Vase and delivered the colorful floribunda to Anne. Anne had just returned home from a long hospital stay from a broken hip. Rehabilitation was difficult. The Vase transformed itself and became Encouragement to Anne. The Vase was returned and filled, and the next Friday afternoon transported to the doorstep of John and Jeanne, enjoying their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. The Vase celebrated Love. The Vaseagain found its way home and the following week turned itself into Compassion and Prayer and was delivered to Charlotte, a dedicated volunteer, who had lost her mother.

Now The Vase always found its way back to The Shepherd’s Center where it was cleaned and polished, its next assignment contemplated, then filled with uplifting spirits in the guise of graceful stems and vibrant hues. The Vase continued its journey—this time to Edward. The Vase was Best Wishes and Laughter as Edward celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday with his family. After the party, The Vase returned to The Shepherd’s Center only to find it was no longer needed. There were still extra flowers and greenery laying on the table. The hands were there willing to create the bouquet, and the life-sustaining water was plentiful. Yet, there was no destination or intention for The Vase. It was put on the shelf — alone, empty, to be forgotten.

Later that Friday afternoon, Penne remarked to Ruth that they had not heard from Martha in several months and in an “ah-ha” moment of inspiration Penne took The Vase from the shelf, filled it with the remaining flowers and sent it on its way to Martha’s home. But, The Vase feared its arrival had been in vain when Martha watered the blooms with tears. Perhaps it had lost its transforming power — cheer and encouragement were no longer needed? The Vasefelt it had nothing more to offer the world. It was used up and destined now to forever sit on a shelf…

The Vase was never returned to The Shepherd’s Center.

One day a note arrived addressed to The Shepherd’s Center. “I’ve been so lonely,” it read. “I’ve felt forgotten and of no use to anyone. The Vase was Caring and Friendship. You have always been there for the older, the disabled, and the forgotten. I will pass it on. The Vase is Joy. God Bless You, Martha.”