It feels like we are much less connected especially with all of our smart devices. Everywhere you go people are looking down at their phones, definitely not connecting even with a simple smile. I started handing out bouquets of flowers to random strangers eight months ago. It seemed simple and would spark some joy in someone’s life even for a moment. And joy had become my word for the year. My boyfriend started calling me the Joy Sparker, a name that has stuck with me. And in Brene Brown’s book”Braving the Wilderness” one of the chapters is “Hold Hands. With Strangers” which resonated with me after a long cancer journey full of isolation. Giving a bouquet of flowers to a stranger was a great start to begin to connect again, something we seemed to have lost with our obsession with smart devices.
At first, I would buy one extra flower bouquet to hand to someone in the grocery store parking lot after I was done shopping. One bouquet for me, one for a stranger, seemed reasonable. The reactions varied but mostly when I would hand someone a flower bouquet and say this is for you they would say “ thank you but why?” My response, “I just want to spark a little joy.” For the most part, it felt like I was startling people. And that became a great goal for the majority of people I handed flowers to looked concerned and/or unhappy. After receiving flowers I saw smiles, joy, and even some tears. And I finally realized why giving flowers to strangers brought me so much joy. When I was a little girl we lived in the mountains outside of Park City, Utah. During the summer my mother would tell us to go outside for the day, play, and explore. Most days I would come home with a handful of wildflowers for my mom. It made me happy to see the joy on her face when I handed her the flowers. She would always put them in a vase, even if they were dandelions, for all to see.
One day I was shopping at Trader Joes and saw flower bouquets for $3.99! WOW, and they were cute. So why not buy five bouquets today and spark a little joy with more than one person? I put my six bouquets in my cart, of course, I had to have one for me and headed to the check stand. I found myself behind a beautiful young mother with what looked like two and four-year-old boys. As she was checking out she had to run off to retrieve the two-year-old who was convinced he was leaving with the tiny Trader Joes shopping cart. As she tried to get the cart away from him he became more and angrier and did what every two years old would do when something they desperately want is taken away, he threw a very loud fit. Mom was mortified and keep saying to me “I am so sorry.” I reassured her I was in no hurry and to take her time. I did not mention that I had four kids and six grandbabies and I was a professional when it came to children throwing fits in the grocery store. She finished checking out, struggling with her two-year-old the entire time and walked out the door. After I checked out I walked out to the parking lot and saw her putting her little ones in the car. I went up to her and handed her a bouquet of flower and told her I wanted her to know that she was an awesome mom. She said thank you and with tears in her eyes gave me a big hug. Now, this was the connection I was looking for. I handed out three more bouquets in the Trader Joes parking lot that day. What started as handing out an occasional bouquet from time to time turned into handing out well over 100 bouquets and I am still going. Sparking joy with others brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.
Putting Some Additional Meaning the Flower Bouquets
In October after the mass shootings in Las Vegas, I felt heartbroken as I am sure so many of us can relate to. I decided to hand out 59 bouquets in the month of October honoring the 59 people who died. October was also my two year born again anniversary, I almost died three times October 14 & 15th, 2015 from the horrific effect of cancer. I gave out bouquets all over the Denver area and five bouquets in the Los Angles area. While in Southern California I went to a Trader Joes and bought five flower bouquets. As I walked out of Trader Joes I saw an elderly woman getting out of her car. I went to her and handed her a bouquet. She asked me why? And I said because I want to spark some joy. I turned around and there was an attractive man watching us and applauding! I walked up to him and his wife/girlfriend and handed them a bouquet. He asked me if I handed out bouquets often and I said yes I do. He laughed and said it’s obvious it gives you more joy than the person you are giving them to, I think you are awesome.
I continued to hand out bouquets throughout the month of October however close to Halloween I still needed to hand out 14 more bouquets to reach my goal. I went to Trader Joes in the Denver area with my granddaughter and picked up 14 bouquets. When I got to the cash register the cashier, a very pretty lady, asked me why I was buying so many flower bouquets. I told her about my goal to hand out 59 bouquets to honor the Las Vegas shooting victims. She told that she wanted to buy half of the bouquets and one of them had to be for me. She also said she had lost her husband to cancer several years ago. I started crying. I told her my cancer story and that it was one of the reasons I handed out flowers because I should have lost my life to cancer. What a beautiful heart connection we made!
My granddaughter and I walked out to the parking lot. I asked my granddaughter to give a bouquet to a nice lady who was walking towards her car. My granddaughter gave the lady a bouquet and walked back to my SUV. I was loading our groceries into the back of the SUV and as I turned around there was a young lady about 14 standing there crying. She said she was the daughter of the lady my granddaughter had just handed the flowers to and that she needed to hug me because it was one of the sweetest gestures she had ever witnessed. WOW, there were a lot of tears at Trader Joes that day. We handed out 10 bouquets in the Trader Joes parking lot. We came home with three bouquets left to hand out. I decided we needed to walk to my friends’ house about a 1/2 mile away to give her one of the bouquets. On our way, we came across a mom walking with her daughter and gave her one of our three bouquets. We gave my beautiful friend her bouquet and as we were walking home we passed an elderly lady walking her dog. I handed her our last bouquet of the 59 I had given out for the month of October. As we walked away I heard this wonderful lady say to her dog, “An angel just handed me a bouquet of flowers.” More tears. In November I handed out 26 flower bouquets to honor the 26 Texas church shooting victims. While it brought me a lot of joy to hand out flowers to random strangers the reason was becoming so sad……honoring shooting victims. I continued to hand out bouquets throughout the month of December.
A New Year
And now here we were in a brand new year, 2018. And probably my favorite story so far from handing out flower bouquets. I was struggling, January 9, 2018, ALOT. I came into 2017 knowing I wanted to help cancer patients. And then my plans blew up in August. I went in a different direction for helping people with their health yet my heart wasn’t really there. However, I have learned that no matter what my day is like I need to continue to spark joy which brings me so much joy. At noon as I was walking out of Sprouts I handed a lady a bouquet of Sunflowers. That evening, and by now I am really struggling, my beautiful friend, Alicia sent me a text asking if I handed out a bouquet of Sunflowers today at Sprouts. I said, “well yes I did, why?” Alicia had just seen a post from a close friend of hers, Kim, stating “Sunflowers, random act of kindness. Some lady just handed them to me when I left Sprouts.” Alicia told me I couldn’t have picked a better person, an incredible mom to four kids, 15-year-old triplets and an 11-year-old. She lost her husband several years ago in a car accident. Alicia let Kim know that the lady who handed her the flowers was me, also a close friend……..by now I am crying. And it doesn’t stop there. This wonderful lady also said to Alicia “Did she know I hadn’t been given flowers in over 10 years and that this week was my birthday?”……by now I am floored and crying.
Here is what this beautiful woman did for me. She solidified something I already knew but wasn’t trusting. No matter what the obstacles I am meant to help cancer patients in a big way. It’s going to take funding, never been down that road, and a lot of faith, however, it’s what I am meant to do and more importantly what in my heart. Thank you Kim my new random friend, we are now connected to the heart. Handing out flowers gives me more joy than the person who receives them thus I will never stop. And this my friends is what connecting with a stranger is all about.