Roses And Reformation
( Originally Published 1902 )
THE following beautiful story of the effect of rose culture in reformation has come under our eye :
The assistant superintendent of a Western house of correction says that rose culture has developed as a distinctly reformatory factor among the women under his care. The discovery of its effectiveness was made by accident. His wife, who was matron of the establishment, had a small rose tree of which she was very fond. One summer, when a somewhat extended leave of absence had been granted her husband, she consigned it, not indeed without many misgivings, to the care of one of the committed women whose confidence or interest it had seemed impossible to arouse. Patience, gentleness, friendliness, alike fell on a wholly unresponsive exterior. The poor soul seemed fairly intelligent, but morally dead to any uplifting influence.
The owner of the rose tree had expected to leave it with a friend whose care she knew would equal her own. But the sullen, sodden face of the woman who had been so much in her thoughts of late rose before her mind's eye, and on an impulse as inexplicable as it was sudden she called her, explained carefully the plant's needs and how to meet them, and gave the bush into her keeping. After an absence of six weeks or more she returned, to find her rose tree in a most flourishing condition and its keeper with a new light in her eyes, the hint of a purpose in her manner, and the dawning of a conscience in her soul.
This gave the superintendent a clew which he was not long in following. It was shortly reported that the showing made by the single rose tree was so fine that a rose garden for the house was in contemplation. A friend of the institution was found who was willing to back the experiment financially. A simple, inexpensive, almost crude conservatory was erected and a few dozen of the most beautiful varieties of roses were purchased. Then a course of talks, interspersed with stories of what roses had done in the world and how they had figured in its work, was given.
Tactfully and unobtrusively close supervision of the work was kept, but the whole care of the plants was given to the women themselves. The following spring a large plot of ground was appropriated to the purpose, and the women still did all the work. This was two or three years ago, and the experiment has justified the expenditure of every cent and every effort devoted to it.
Two or three other institutions, one for men, have adopted this method of employing their inmates, and the promoters of the scheme are hopeful of its eventually proving self-supporting through the sale of cut flowers and slips now carried on. The moral effect has been beyond their most sanguine expectations.
We are not surprised at this tender ministry of the flowers ; they are the exquisite materialization of God's thoughts ; they are the reflection of his beauty, the expression of his love. Science tells us that, when the earth was preparing for the habitation of the race, the few flowers that then existed were crude and homely, and that they ascended into variety, and put on their robes of beauty, to greet the opening eye of man. On nodding stem and waving branch, God has hung the blossoms of snowy whiteness and of crimson hues, as expressions of his regard for us. He speaks to us in the flowers, and tells us of his love. What a beautiful thing it was, to set these red-Iipped messengers to tell God's love to the wayward. How appropriate to take the rose, which, from earliest times, has been the symbol of joy and love, and which to-day in its form, fragrance and hue is the expression of love, human and divine, and employ it for the esthetic enjoyment and moral benefit of the inmates of the institutions ! We can hardly see how they could look upon the flower, whose unfolding bud is the symbol of innocence and purity, without seeing some reflection of absolute beauty, or receiving some inclination to a better life. By a law of our nature, we are made like that which we look upon ; if we look at the beautiful things, we become beautiful ; if at homely things, we become homely. In obedience to this law, the hearts of the inmates ought to receive some beauty as they look at and cultivate the roses.
The vision of God seen in the roses, enjoyable and beneficial as it is, is only partial; is only a hint of the clearer vision of him in the face of his Son, and in his blood, which the crimson petals typify. If the wayward will only look at the Rose of Sharon steadily enough, they will be reformed; they will be saved.