Each night before Gwen Carter goes to sleep, she prays. She does not ask for peace, or prosperity, or even for patience. Though nothing is wrong with these petitions, she goes right to the heart of God. “I ask the Lord each night to be able to help somebody the next day.”
Her unselfish desire is granted. She has served many years as guardian ad litem and advocated for children who needed someone representing their interests in court. “I used to tell the parents to take responsibility for what they need to do,” Carter said. “I told them they do not want to get in the system.”
She also has volunteered at a pregnancy center. “There I had a chance to work with lots of young mothers and fathers,” Carter said. “We never told them what to do, but we tried to make sure they had access to all the resources they needed.”
Her quiet demeanor and candid conversation allow many people facing difficulties to talk about their challenges. Carter even was able to get one young woman to go to the doctor who had refused when her parents had made the same request. “In that case, if that young woman hadn’t gone for medical help, she would have died of sepsis.”
Carter taught elementary school children in Fairfax County Schools in Virginia and retired after 20 years. In her classroom, she said she only had one rule: The Golden Rule, which is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31).
She’s shared this value with her daughters, Sophia and Shamaine, as well as her grandsons, Alex and Tony. “Some folks don’t know that if you just be kind, then people will be kind to you,” Carter said.
When Carter’s husband retired from the Air Force, they relocated to Central Florida. Her latest passion is working with the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. She combines her love of people with nature by sponsoring education programs with plants. “Working outside or doing a floral arrangement gives me serenity,” she said. “That takes away all the noise and makes me feel peaceful.”
Her favorite Bible verse comes from the beginning of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd.” She said that is all she needs to know. God will secure her in all situations. And he has. Despite diabetes and the loss of vision in one eye, she chooses to see beauty all around her and creates that through garden projects to share with others. She has planted carrots by her mailbox for “the critters” and she delivers flower arrangements to City Hall.
Red is her favorite color, and she wears something in that shade every day. Her new project is joining the Creative Floral Arrangers of the Americas to learn more about design. Growing up, her only exposure to gardening was wildflowers. “Daddy raised us by himself,” she said. “He was trying to do work and didn’t have time for flowers.”
Even though she is allergic to flowers, which make her skin break out and can cause her difficulty breathing, Carter pursues her passion. “I just make sure to take my medication every day.”
Her goal is to beautify the world around her and educate others how to do so too. “Just a smile gives joy,” she said. “That’s helping.”
Link to sample arrangements by the Creative Floral Arrangers of the Americas
Techniques to Become a Top Floral Designer