Friday, January 13, 2012
Today was yet another interesting experience that gave me a lot to think about. I decided that this cold and blustery winter day would be a perfect time to offer flowers to a complete stranger to brighten up their world. As usual, there were some surprises in store for me.
I swung by our local Wegman's where they have a variety of bouquets already pre-made, and picked out a nice, colorful mix of flowers. Being a typical guy, I have no idea what kind of flowers I bought, but they looked nice. My first thought was to randomly pick someone in the parking lot to offer them to. As I scanned the lot, it occurred to me that maybe it would be better to offer the flowers to someone who perhaps rarely enjoyed such a treat; and if that was my goal, I probably needed to go to a different type of venue to find an appropriate recipient.
With a new target in mind, I headed across town to our local Dollar Store. I decided I'd wait in the parking lot and watch people coming out of the store to select the person to whom I'd offer the flowers. Soon enough, an older woman emerged and headed toward her car with her purchases. I walked up to her as kindly as I could, not wanting to appear threatening in any way, and asked her if I could offer her the flowers to brighten her day. She looked at me and said, "No, no, I don't want them." I made one more gentle attempt and met with a similar rebuff, at which point I decided to back off and wait for another person.
Several minutes later, another elderly woman came out of the store, slowly pushing her shopping cart toward an old, beat up car. Once again, I approached her carefully, asking if I could offer her the flowers. She was hesitant, at first, not quite sure what to make of me. She started to refuse, then asked "Why? Why are you being nice?" I simply told her that I wanted her to have a nice day, offered to assist her with loading her purchases, and took her cart back for her. As she got in her car, she looked at the flowers again and remarked, "These are real!" I helped close her car door for her and wished her a good day.
As I reflected on what took place, I had a number of thoughts and observations. I have to give some more thought about the best way to approach strangers as I realize that to many people, strangers can be unsettling, or even threatening. I also wonder if people who have less, from a material perspective, are even more cautious or wary of strangers, feeling that people often take advantage of them and that people aren't nice without expecting something in return. It will be interesting to see if this varies by socioeconomic class, or if it's generally true of most people.
I'm also thinking that it might be a good idea to include a note with these and other anonymous gifts, telling the recipient that a stranger just wants to spread kindness and wish them a good day. I'm thinking that this might disarm them just a little, once they read it, and allow them to enjoy the gift without trying to find the "catch." In fact, I wish I had done that with dessert the other night. Of course, this is all part of the process - trying all different acts of kindness for all different types of people in all different ways, and seeing what I learn. Stay tuned for more . . .