Bob Briggs

As wonderful as summer is for so many of us, this year’s certainly has had its fill of downers. Whether it was political, pandemic-oriented, job-related, hurricane or flood damages — or to vaccinate or not — there were a whole lot of bummers this summer.

Since it’s our job and our mission, the Finger Lakes Times informed you about many of those stories. People often complain about the amount of negative news published — but, to borrow one of today’s overused phrases, it is what it is. As I have said before, wouldn’t it be great if all news was good?

Well, I ‘m glad to say this week’s “Bigger Picture” is, on purpose, a feel-good story. It touches on a subject I find enjoyable to pass on: Random acts of kindness.

Bob Briggs is 78. Originally from the North Rose area, he has spent the past 55 years doing roofing work. It is the kind of manual labor that can take a toll on the body, but he continues to do that kind of work to this day, although less of it and more on-the-ground, labor-intensive stuff.

At first meeting, he comes across a little gruff. His left eye barely opens; a day or two’s growth of stubble was on his face; and the day I visited, he wore a shirt still dirty from a hard day’s work. In reality, however, Bob is a very cheerful, affable guy who smiles often, which makes that left eye shut completely. He loves to tell a good story, and he has many to share.

However, I will be telling this particular story.

Bob passes out flowers, randomly, to friends and strangers on a daily basis. Many include a vase. All the flowers have been grown on his middle-of-nowhere property in the town of Lyons. He shares it with his current wife of 18 years, Sally. They share a home that was bought for $3,500. Going by the saying “You get what you pay for,” they did in this case. No working plumbing or electricity, rotted floors, holes in the roof. But, it has become a home through the hard work of Bob and some helpers.

It’s now a home that has gardens all around it, both flowers and vegetables. And, those flowers are what Bob has used to spread random joy.

He always keeps some in his vehicle. The savings banks in the area are familiar with him, as he regularly passes out bouquets there. In fact, he was out of the area recently and needed to cash a check. He stopped in at another of the bank’s branches but had no identification on him. He told the teller to call the Lyons branch and ask them what kind of flowers a guy named Bob Briggs gave them earlier that day. The answer — daffodils — matched. They cashed his check.

Bob’s favorite flower is a dahlia. He also grows zinnias, sunflowers, rose of Sharon, day lilies, snowball bush, and many more.

He was driving by a home recently and saw an outdoor birthday party going on. He stopped, asked who the birthday girl was and presented her with a bouquet.

At other places, he knows the people and will purposely drop by the business with flowers to hand out. Every Sunday at the Baptist church he and Sally attend he will bring a supply of flowers to hand out.

A recent flower recipient named Polly was the first to tell me about Bob. She relayed that a group of women she socializes with, many of whom are in their 80s, all at one time or another received flowers from Bob.

Through word of mouth, Bob received a call asking if he would provide the flowers for an upcoming wedding this Saturday. Naturally, he said sure. When I asked how many tables and people were attending, he said he had no idea. One thing for certain: He had no intention of charging the soon-to-be newlyweds.

I asked if he had enough flowers left in the season for that event. He expressed no worry.

When I showed up to interview Bob he handed me a vase filled with fresh flowers. I asked about the vase. Do I need to get it back to him? He said some people do, but generally it is not necessary. Many people drop them off at his house, and he can always find some at garage sales or the like.

He showed me a room in his house with boxes full of them.

What is interesting is many of his flowers are annuals. That requires him to dig them up in the fall, place the flowers/bulbs in buckets, and turn over the old soil. Last year there were 35 buckets. The buckets are stored in his heated basement until being replanted in the spring. Since he replants in clumps and not individually, along with not marking buckets for what color the flowers are, each blossoming season comes as a wonderful surprise.

Even at 78, Bob does a great deal of the weeding while Sally takes care of watering. They collect it with rain barrels. With the varieties he grows, something is always in bloom.

It’s hard to imagine anyone receiving a single flower or bouquet randomly not feeling uplifted. Bob’s random acts of kindness show that anyone, no matter the age, income level or location, can spread joy to the world.

On my way out, Bob handed me a second bunch of flowers. I drove home with both bunches and then presented the flowers — and their story — to a lovely woman named Kim.

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