As I bought flowers for the office this morning, I realised it had been a while since I’d bought a bunch of flowers for a stranger. I wondered why it had been so long since I’d committed this random act of kindness. Was I too self-absorbed? Had I pulled back on being kind? But then the truth hit me: the last time I gave flowers to a stranger I was rejected. The lady I offered them to said in no uncertain terms that she didn’t want flowers and didn’t need the flowers and left me standing there gaping like a fish. I took the flowers home and gave them to myself.
But today, I decided, I was going to start my mission again. No looking back. However, as I began to walk through the shopping centre with my flowers, looking for someone to give them to, I realised I was scared of being rejected again and looking foolish. I got all the way to the carpark, still holding those flowers, got into the car and drove towards home.
As I neared my local precinct, I decided on a whim to pull into the supermarket car park and give my flowers away. An elegant elderly lady was walking towards me, and as she approached I offered her the flowers. “Oh that’s very kind of you, but no thanks. I’ve got too many at home.” My heart sank but I kept the smile stuck to my face as the lady walked away.
Okay, I’d given it my best shot and it’s obvious that the world is full up of flowers, so perhaps there’s been enough kindness passed around for one millennium. This is how I justified my actions, as I walked back to the car. But then something made me turn around and try again, foolish or not.
There was a lady lugging a heavy shopping bag in one hand, leaning to the side for counterbalance. I figured the flowers would help. ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘would you like a bunch of flowers – for no reason in particular? I’m giving them away to a stranger.’
The lady looked at me and curled her lip. “No thanks. They’ll just die anyway.” I asked her if she knew anyone who would like flowers and she said “June, who works in the chemist could do with some flowers today after her bad news. Why don’t you give them to her?”
So I went next door to the chemist, asked the shop assistant to give the flowers to June (‘who worked out the back’) and tell her they were just a random act of kindness flowers for a stranger, from a stranger.
I left the store and drove away as fast as was legally possible, glad my flowers had at last reached a destination.
Which got me thinking: did I just use my strength of kindness? It didn’t really feel like it. Then it dawned on me: the two strengths I used were persistence and courage – as was evident of my quickly beating heart in my getaway car.
And yes, there was kindness too, but I think the flower giving this day was more about me than the recipient.
I hope she liked them anyway