I have been giving a gift a day since March 19, 2008. When I began this daily giving ritual I was in a very dark place in my life. I was very sick, struggling with a major Multiple Sclerosis flare. I was broke because I was unable to work due to my condition. I was isolated from my friends and family because I was an angry, resentful woman and stopped reaching out to others. On that day in March, I decided to take an uncommon prescription from an African Medicine Woman named Mbali Creazzo, who is one of my many spiritual mentors. The prescription? To give away 29 Gifts in 29 Days as a way to change the dynamic of my thinking and stop obsessing on my illness. The giving prescription worked for me. Today I'm happy, healthy and enjoy every minute of my life.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
I have found this to be true over the past year and five months.
So today, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite giving stories from my journey so far.
To celebrate the beginning of my fourth 29-Day cycle of giving, I used I used the free downloadable 29Gifts Gift Notes and some major FLOWER POWER to bring smiles to lots of strangers.
My Flower Power give started with a trip to the flower store. I purchased 48 long-stem roses. I chose 4-Dozen because I’m heading into round four of my giving so it seemed right. The manager gave me a discount and gifted me a bunch of those little water-holding do-hickeys that you can put on the ends of the stems to keep the flowers alive. If I lived in a place where it was possible to go pick wild flowers… or if I had a garden to pick from, I would have taken that route. I considered giving a few other types of flowers like daisies, or little rooted plants that people could keep longer or plant outside, but roses have spiritual significance for me.
The rose is a symbol of protection that I often use in my meditations. I carefully chose the colors as well. Here’s the symbolism for each color I picked, according to the Gardner’s Network.
White = reverence, humility and white buds symbolize girlhood
Yellow = joy, gladness, friendship, delight, the promise of a new beginning
I printed up the 29 Gifts Note Cards onto recycled paper and made 48 little gift tags out of them. I attached a tag to each rose. Above is a shot of the materials as I put the flowers together for my big Flower Power Give.
Here are the first three completed roses. You can see the cute Gift Tags.
When all 48 roses had their gift tags attached, I gathered them all into a big bucket to make them easy to carry around.
My husband, Mark, took me over to the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Fairfax Ave in West Hollywood, where we parked in the Whole Foods parking lot. I began by approaching several people who were putting groceries in their trunks.
“Would you like a free rose?” I asked each time.
Most people’s immediate response was one of two things.
“No thanks.” or “Free?”
I always assumed the “No thanks” people didn’t hear the word FREE, so I would reply to both responses the same way.
“It’s free. It’s a gift. You don’t have to sign anything or give me your email address.”
Most people would giggle at that because we’re all used to being approached by people trying to get petitions signed outside the grocery store.
Usually people would smile and accept their gift with gratitude once the FREE thing was cleared up. But a few responded with a forceful, “NO...” or “Nyet. Nyet. Nyet,” in the case of one old Russian lady. I obviously backed off when that happened and would move on to the next person.
Many people asked me why the rose was free so I told them it was for a creative project I’m working on and then I’d briefly explain the 29-Day Giving Challenge. I pointed out the url on the back of the gift tags and told them to go check out the site Saturday afternoon if they’d like to read my story of the day. We made a round through the Whole Foods Parking lot, then ventured out and made a couple passes by some nearby bus stops.
Here’s a shot of one of the parking lot security guards who took a rose in the parking lot. His partner later ran across the parking lot to chase me down at the nearby bus stop. He asked if he could please have a rose too so he could give it to his girlfriend. He was one of three people who came up to me and asked for roses rather than waiting for me to offer one. One guy sitting at the bus stop asked for two because he wanted to give them to his daughters.
One sweet older woman who was wobbling down the street with a cane told me, “You just made my day. I just came from my doctor where I had a very painful procedure. Thank you.”
Some people, like this woman, got very emotional and looked like they were almost going to cry when I gave them their rose.
Another adorable white-haired man who refused his rose twice before he understood it was free broke out in a happy, tearful smile and gushed while he waved his rose in the air, “Nobody ever did this sort of thing for me before. This is the nicest thing. I will remember this day until I die.”
I gave a couple roses to people working in businesses in the nearby strip mall. This woman was working hard sewing her butt off but stopped long enough to take a rose and smile in thanks.
This guy was the highlight of the day. He took the rose and then immediately re-gifted it to a lady walking down the street. He stayed at the bus stop the entire time I was making my rounds and took a total of four roses, all of which he passed on to others. He later asked me for $1.60 for his bus fare, which my husband and I gave him. As we handed out the last rose and headed back to our car, he yelled out to us. “You come back again tomorrow. I’ll be there to help hand out more roses.”
Now that’s the giving spirit.
What's really cool is that the Flower Power Give has spread around the world since I did it. Many individual 29Givers have done it in their cities and there have even been large groups of givers who did Flower Power Gives together in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta and Houston. This proves to me that kindness is contagious and has helped me see that each gift I offer has a ripple effect to help change the world.
If you'd like to join me in my personal mission to revive the giving spirit in the world, go sign up at 29Gifts.org. Just click on the sign up button, answer a few simple questions and you're on your way to giving your gifts to the world. Your 29 Gifts can be anything offered to anyone--spare change, kind words, cans of soup, prayers... whatever calls to you. And if you sign up now, you'll help us reach our goal of inspiring 29,000 people to sign up for the 29-Day Giving Challenge by 9/29/09. We only have a month to inspire 20,000 more people to take part so we really need help spreading the word. We'd really appreciate it if you'd send this invitation email to all of your family and friends as well an encourage them to join our worldwide giving movement.
Good giving today. May you be the recipient of many gifts.