Melba Ruffin began working at Rainbow Floral in Marshall when she was only 19, and 57 years later she’s still there, arranging flowers, making deliveries and ministering to the customers she meets.
“What made me stay here all this time? Because I’m a people person,” Ruffin said. “I like people... I love people, and the other day I was going down the road and I was telling God, I said ‘God, I thank you for the paycheck, and I thank you for the job, but it’s not just a job, it’s a ministry,’
“’Cause you get to minister to all kind of people. Some have lost their loved ones, some are sick, and they’ll say ‘Melba, pray for me.’ And so I do. If God say ‘Do it,’ I do it.”
Ruffin began at the flower shop on January 23, 1962, she said. She’d been working at another job for two years, and her boss said he was leaving, so Ruffin said she asked him if he could help her find a job in Marshall.
He found her the job at Rainbow Floral, and Ruffin showed up that first day.
“I walked through that door back there and I told him, I said ‘I’m Melba,’ at that time, scared,” Ruffin said. “I said ‘I’m Melba, ... said you have a job opening.’ He said ‘Yes, and would you like it?’ ‘ I said ‘yes,’ and he said ‘Well I’ll pay you $20 a week,’ and I said ‘$20 a week?’... So I went back out to the car to this guy (who gave her a ride to the shop), told him ‘they say they’re gonna pay me $20 a week, that’s what I’m already making.’ He said ‘Go back and ask him for $25.’ So I came back, and asked, long story (short), for $25. I said ‘I’ll work for you for $25,’ and he said ‘Okay.’ And he said ‘If you’re real smart and real fast,’ he said, ‘Well I’ll give you, you’ll get a week’s vacation if you stay here a year.’”
“But I was so smart, I was getting a bonus for Mother’s Day, for Easter and for Valentine and for Christmas. Cause I worked in the Green House at that time. I planted the little baby plants and stuff, that was fun. It was really — I had a good time.”
A really important part of the job to Ruffin is being able to minister to people through her job. She told a story about a little boy she made a delivery to recently.
“So then his mother came out and she told me, she says ‘He got to go to Dallas and have something did to his leg again,’ and we got out there on the porch and we prayed for him, and as far as I know today, he didn’t have to go back,” Ruffin said. “So it’s a good job.”
Ruffin also loves the flowers themselves.
“I love impatiens and I love caladiums,” she said “I think those two would be my favorite flowers. Because impatias, when they droop, they look like they’re sad, you give them some water and they’ll perk their heads up and look they’re saying thank you.”
The question of how much longer Ruffin will continue working as a florist is one that is currently unanswered.
“We’ll have to see what God says about it,” she said.”’Cause see, I’ll be 78 in August, and ... I don’t know what I’m gonna do... I say, whatever God says about it.”