5-year-old brings cheer to neighbors with flower deliveries
STRATFORD, N.J. (AP) — Lilly Parker is 5, and she wants a slime-maker and an LOL doll for Christmas.
But whatever Santa brings on Dec. 25, it will be tough to match the joy she felt the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
That’s when Lilly pulled a wagon of poinsettias and delivered them to her neighbors’ doorsteps as her parents supervised, continuing what’s become an annual tradition.
She even signed her own cards, using the penmanship she’s perfecting in kindergarten.
“She absolutely loves doing it,” said Lilly’s mom, Lynn Parker, as her daughter sat at the family’s dining-room table, eating breakfast and playing on a tablet.
The tradition began two years ago, when Lilly was just 3.
Jeff Parker, Lilly’s dad, would sometimes bring autumn mums to neighbors, so he figured he’d extend the goodwill into the holiday season with poinsettias.
Lilly accompanied him to deliver poinsettias to a few close neighbors.
“The next year, she remembered,” Lynn said.
And the poinsettia deliveries expanded.
“She wanted to go to all the houses with Christmas cards,” Jeff said. “She was all business when she did it. She wrote out 28 cards.”
This year, the deliveries expanded a little more, to the Parkers’ whole block and some neighbors on the next block in the Camden County enclave of mid-century homes.
The timing of the poinsettia gifts, just a few days after Thanksgiving, is deliberate.
First, Jeff gets great Black Friday deals on the flowers. Also, it builds Lilly’s excitement for the holidays.
“It’s the kickoff to her of the holiday season,” Lynn said. “Everything is really centered around making this part of her holidays.”
There’s a routine to Lilly’s deliveries, all made pulling a little red wagon topped with a wood panel to keep the poinsettias steady.
“She doesn’t care how cold it is. She says, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’” Lynn said.
“She runs up, puts the card down, and puts the poinsettia on top of it,” Jeff said.
In most cases, neighbors aren’t home at the time of Lilly’s visits, so they return to a surprise gift.
One recipient posted on a Facebook community page for Stratford residents, wondering if the poinsettia plant was left by mistake: “My husband just came home from work to a poinsettia on our porch with a Christmas card that only has the name Lillian inside. I’m thinking this got dropped off to the wrong house.”
That’s when Lynn jumped in to explain Lilly’s tradition.
“That is the greatest and sweetest tradition!” another neighbor replied.
“Maybe there’s a Christmas elf in Stratford,” read one of many more comments thanking Lilly for the delivery.
Lynn read the comments to her daughter, who she said doesn’t look for any recognition or reward for her efforts.
“She is just a very loving, giving child,” she said of Lilly, who enjoys crafts, dance class and going for walks in the neighborhood where she’s quickly becoming a celebrity.
Next-door neighbor John Barrett peeked his head out the door one day this week when he spotted Lilly with her wagon.
“Is that Lilly?” asked Barrett. “You guys left a flower here? That was so sweet. Thank you, sweetheart!”
Barrett moved in seven months ago, so this was the first time he was treated to the “very pleasant surprise.” He said the child’s gesture fits it with the closeness of the neighborhood.
“Everybody looks out for each other,” he said, then directed some more praise toward Lilly. “Keep up the good work. You brighten everyone’s day, sweetheart!”
That feedback is helping Lilly learn a lesson at a young age, her parents said.
“It’s the gift of giving,” said Lynn.
“We want her to know what it is to be a good neighbor,” Jeff added. “With social media, you don’t see that much of that anymore.”
He noted that the wagon trips are a vehicle for Lilly to become part of her community.
“When she grows up, she’s going to see all these people when she’s participating in sports and activities.”
Lilly already has realized that her actions reach beyond her immediate neighborhood.
“She had someone engage with her when she got to school. It was the school resource officer — he pulled her aside and thanked her for the poinsettia. She was elated,” Jeff said.
It might be some time before Lilly fully understands the impact of her simple gesture. But she already can explain why she delivers poinsettias every year.
“Because it’s nice,” she said.
Information from: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), http://www.courierpostonline.com/