When you understand the saying It’s the thought that counts you soon stop counting the cost or sticking by the rules.
And that pretty much sums up the spirit of this year’s Petal It Forward event.
Lovingly Happiness Ambassadors handed each person they approached on the street two flowers: one for that person and one for whoever they choose to make smile.
No charge. No donations. Just a gift. Or two.
A smiling man listened to a Lovingly team member as she explained the meaning of Petal It Forward. He nodded and seemed to think it was a great idea.
Then he surprised her by declining the gift.
“I’m so sorry,” he explained, “but I have a mother-in-law, daughter, and wife at home today. I’m headed straight back and it wouldn’t be fair.”
“Hey, if it’s the thought that counts, who’s counting?” Director of Corporate Development and Team Leader, Michael Delgorio, told the team member when she asked if an exception could be made.
The man left smiling with four beautiful roses.
And with that the spirit of the event came to life.
Still, the Lovingly team was getting pretty good at this. It was our second time out. Last year’s event had been a huge success also, with important lessons learned.
Like remembering to bring snacks and water!
The brainchild of The Society of American Florists, this nationwide event is one that Lovingly jumped into with both feet and as many beautiful flowers as it could gather.
And for a company that exists to encourage giving, it was a perfect fit.
Big hugs, kisses, and handshakes all around was the result of approaching one couple, who looked at us in amazement as we explained the event and what it meant.
“We’ve just come out of marriage counselling!” the woman exclaimed. “I can’t believe this!”
Quite possibly this couple — and certainly the Lovingly team — are still discussing if that moment was a sign that their love would overcome any difficulties.
Without doubt, it was a magical moment.
A quiet young man told us without embarrassment that he had no family or loved ones to give flowers to. He didn’t seem eager to escape, so we asked him to think hard and tell us if he knew anybody he felt deserved a flower.
After a few moments he slowly nodded and said he did.
With that, he accepted the spirit of Petal It Forward with the promise that he would give the extra flower to that person. He left smiling.
We wish him love, luck, and a new friendship.
Opening up such emotions, even secrets, and gaining insight into the lives of strangers we’d normally pass on the street without a glance was powerful stuff.
It should have been emotionally draining, but it was actually inspiring.
A frail older woman gratefully accepted her gifts and walked very slowly toward some nearby stores.
A few minutes later she was back, asking for more flowers.
So what had happened to the flowers we’d given her?
It turned out that she’d entered a store and offered her flowers to the ladies serving her. Having enjoyed the experience of giving, she’d decided to carry on and do it again!
We had just recruited a new team member!
With the spirit of giving becoming infectious before our eyes, we really let the spirit of the event take over, and started running out of flowers way before our scheduled time.
It was time to call in reinforcements.
Happily, the second shift of Happiness Ambassadors reacted quickly, bringing fresh faces and more flowers. They were needed.
Without doubt, the biggest change we saw in people came when we — finally! — convinced them that we did not want money or donations of any kind.
All defenses dropped and it was like meeting a whole new person.
It’s impossible to explain how palpably the atmosphere changed when the people we approached realized that we genuinely did want to give, not get.
Ultimately, it was moving, humbling, and life-affirming.
One man accepted his gifts with a huge smile. He told us he had bought flowers for his wife only the day before. He then explained that, until this moment, he hadn’t understood how she felt when she received them.
Now he did.
Another person, who had children — and consequently received more than the allotted number of flowers — expressed disbelief when we flatly refused to accept a financial donation.
We advised her to spend the money on her flower-toting children.
She was visibly moved.
Another woman told us she had not received flowers from anybody in many years. She was also visibly moved. Joyfully, she said, “I know exactly who to give my extra gift to!”
The fact that it didn’t seem right to ask her to explain made the moment even more poignant.
One man told us he had lost twenty dollars that morning and receiving the flowers had turned a bad day around for him. He had started to feel that his luck in life was headed downwards.
Now all he wanted to do was hand out his extra gift and create a smile.
A couple of people actually remembered the event and the team from last year. They congratulated us and told us this was exactly what the town needs.
And with that they accepted their gifts and joined in the fun.
One lady left us amazed after receiving her gift, and is quoted very carefully here, by a team member who heard her speak and remembered every word:
No — thank YOU! All of you. It was wonderful and moving to meet with you and share.
See you in Fishkill next year!