Would You Like a Free Flower?

Once a year, our church scatters itself throughout the community, spreading goodness wherever we can. It’s not a promotional thing, since we don’t even mention where we’re from. We are told to “just give” and not entice people to our church.

The church provides materials for a variety of activities: a car wash, wiping windshields, collecting food for the homeless, cleaning up garbage, passing out flowers to people and dog treats to pets. We can choose to march in the annual parade, write letters to various people, do crafts and sing with nursing home residents, make crafts for local preschools or make goody bags for shelters.

It’s a big church.

Last year, Shane and I arrived late and we did the only thing left: handed out flowers in front of a grocery store. On our way to the store, Shane was very concerned about exactly how to give someone a flower.

He was, of course, the cutest flower boy ever.

Some people didn’t take a flower, but most were gracious and happy to get a flower.

One man almost cried. “Today is the anniversary of my wife’s death,” he said with tears in his eyes. “This means so much to me; thank you.”

It was a no-brainer what we would do this year. Shane wanted to hand out flowers. He also wanted to hand out dog biscuits, so we signed up for two shifts. Meanwhile, Bill and Dylan went to wash windshields – but their reception was underwhelming.

“We washed like ten windshields,” Dylan said, “in two hours!” Their customers didn’t believe it was a free service.

Meanwhile, Shane and I had similar issues. After the first few people rejected Shane’s offer of a carnation, Shane said, “Maybe I should say, ‘Would you like a free flower?'”

After he added the word “free,” a few people took flowers. But traffic was slow – so we went across the street to Starbucks. On such a nice morning, people were sitting at tables outside, and the place was hopping. We gave flowers to all five people outside.

But nearly everyone else rejected us.

Shane, his too-long hair in his eyes, walked right up to people with his arm outstretched. “Would you like a free flower?”

“Not right now,” some said.

“No thank you,” most said.

“Well at least they’re saying ‘no thank you’ and not just ‘no,'” Shane observed.

I’d estimate that two out of every three people said no. Some people offered us money – which, of course, we refused.

A woman who was sitting inside Starbucks saw how Shane was struggling to give away the flowers, and waved at me through the window. She wanted a flower! Shane went in – and I could see the woman reaching for her purse. I shook my head outside the window; Shane shook his head inside. She could hardly believe her good fortune – we gave her two free flowers. And all she did was ask.

She was Shane’s favorite customer.

Eventually, we gave away all the flowers. Those that took flowers were quite gracious and kind, and we were glad we’d done it.

But we had the same experience at the dog park. No one wanted free dog biscuits, either. It’s sad that we are so conditioned to feeling obligated that we can barely accept anything for free.

Not even simple human kindness.

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