Last September my friend Jennifer and I started collecting change in order to do something fun with it together. After some deliberation we decided to put our funds towards buying local flowers and passing them out for free to people as a random act of kindness (RAK). Between the two of us we collected about $90 in coins over the last year. My stepson Jaden joined us too and we had a three-man Random Acts of Kindness Brigade and set out yesterday at our local Farmer’s Market downtown. We had a great time!
We had some unexpected results as well in performing our RAK. I realized after our first round of buying flowers and handing them out to passers by that I was shying away from offering them to men. So when we stocked up with our 2nd armful of flowers to pass out I was set on targeting men to give them to. I saw a man sitting at a booth selling his art work and I went and offered him a bouquet. He gratefully accepted and then invited me to take one of his wonderful pictures (as seen in the above photo). A kindness in turn!
We also walked by a Downtown Ambassador who worked for the city and had a mobile cart with free info about Missoula, maps, bus schedules, and that sort of thing. He saw our signs and decided to give us a few free carousel ride tickets, which Jaden then passed out to a few kids on the street.
Another un-anticipated occurrence was how often people turned us down and opted not to accept the flowers. We found that this happened the further away we ventured from the Farmer’s Market. In discussing this trend together I wondered if perhaps when people were in route somewhere their minds were more oriented in arriving where they were heading and not as able to engage with some random stranger coming up to them offering free flowers – in that sense we proved to be an interruption they simply hadn’t planned for. People were more receptive when they were milling around and socializing. It seemed too that one particular group I approached when walking downtown was simply unable to switch gears and accept the flowers in the spirit in which they were offered. It was as if they reacted out of a habit of disregarding random people trying to get their attention. Some people seemed wary of our intentions, some just didn’t want any flowers, and some were quite startled by our random flower giving. Many people, however, were filled with joy and gratitude to receive free flowers. More than once I heard someone say, “You made my day!”
It was a good practice to give for the sake of giving and not expect anything in return, or look for any particular reaction or response. It was also a good practice not to feel personally rejected when someone chose not to accept the flowers we were giving out. And it was a good reminder for me that joy and appreciation don’t look the same for everyone. Just because one person might exclaim out loud how great it is to be getting flowers and offers to hug you in thanks doesn’t mean that someone else who takes them with a light smile or reluctance and a soft thank you aren’t equally as able to enjoy the beauty of the flowers.
When we parted ways Jaden and I grabbed some lunch at the Downtown Diner before heading back home. I had made signs that said Random Acts of Kindness Brigade that I hung from silly, fun necklaces for each of us to wear and we still had ours on. Our waitress noticed our signs and after we talked with her a little bit about them she said, “I’m going to tell you a story.” She told us about a time when her co-worker had had a booth with a couple who chose to anonymously pay for the meal of a single man eating at the next booth. That man then proceeded to anonymously pay the check for another table of diner goers. Eventually the 7 tables that were occupied in the diner at the time had decided to pay the bill of another table. There was even one table who had decided to pass their free meal onto someone else because they couldn’t afford to pay for another table’s meal. It was an inspiring, heart-warming story to hear and another unexpected result.
On our way to pay the bill a young waiter saw the picture I was holding (the one I had been given earlier). He really liked it and asked where I had gotten it. I took his interest in it as a sign that he should have it. So I gave it to him as our last act of random kindness for the day :)
P.S We’ve already talked about having this be an annual adventure and expanding our brigade next year – and maybe even making t-shirts to wear!
P.P.S Some dates to consider:
Random Acts of Kindness Day (U.S.)
February 17, 2016