This past Friday, Valentine’s Day, I was on a mission to give away as many flowers as possible.
I raced to the Shuk early ( the open market in central Tel Aviv) to get the freshest and best selection of flowers.
It was just beginning to wake up. As I walked through the empty aisles, I thought about how different it would be 2 hours later when a sea of people would converge on this thriving, colorful hub of Tel Aviv.
I checked a few flower stalls and landed on one that was selling stunning gerbera daisies. I chose brilliant red and antique pink ones. What could be more perfect?
Little did I realize that within a few hours my day would turn into a day of practicing compassion.
As I walked to the street, I saw a sad looking woman on a park bench and gave her a flower. Then an exotic young Ethiopian woman who was too shy to have her picture taken was beaming as she waltzed away with a flower.
When I climbed onto the sherut, a local mini-bus, with my several dozen flowers, there was only a space in the back row. I plopped down next to a young man and once settled in offered him a flower. He accepted it graciously. I sensed by his manner and the way he held the flower that he was a gentle soul. I asked him what a flower represented for him, his response was ‘love’. He then went onto explain how he grew up in a household where his father brought home flowers to his mother all of the time. The look on his face? One of peacefulness and love.
Once home as I prepared the flowers, cutting the stems and placing in a pail of cool water, I was happy and excited. I knew it was going to be an awesome day. After all, how could it not be?
I first approached 2 couples sitting on the bench. They looked at me with total disinterest and said ‘no’ with a glaze in their eyes. I felt a slight sting and some anger. ‘Geez,” I thought. ‘Here I am with these stunning flowers on Valentines Day that I want to share with them and they’re refusing.’
The area was mobbed with families, couples, friends – all ages were out enjoying themselves. By the time I had received a few ‘not interested’ and shakes of the head ‘no’, I realized that I had some quick emotional work to do on myself if I was going to give away flowers with loving and positive feelings AND have fun doing it.
I sat on a bench for a few minutes and reflected. I came to the conclusion that doing this on a holiday was not ideal. But I had already bought the flowers and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.’Yep,’ I thought to myself, ‘I can turn this into a study of human nature.’
The first thing I did was to place the pail of flowers down on the ground and walk away. I was curious to see if people would respond to them. They did. I saw smiles and pointing fingers.
Sitting and observing allowed me to pull back and appreciate the larger picture. Hundreds of people were outside on a beautiful sunny Valentines Day and a pail of fresh flowers was doing what it does best – looking gorgeous. I was breathing deeply, sinking into a calmer state, and reminding myself that it doesn’t matter how many people are touched in a positive way. What matters most is my intent and desire is to inspire people to connect more strongly with each other and nature.
As I was closing the day out, 3 teenage girls came up and started talking with me. Clearly they wanted a flower – which I happily gave them. When asked how a flower made them feel, one of the girls responded ‘it makes me smile’ (I didn’t coach her). After a few minutes of chatting, they walked away laughing and smiling. I felt my heart overflowing with joy.
The rest of the afternoon went quickly. I ended up giving dozens of flowers away and had some delightful conversations. When I came home, I was exhausted but felt good. I realized that I had been successful in transforming my day of giving away flowers into a day for practicing compassion when dealing with strangers.
6 Tips For Practicing Compassion
1. Don’t take anything personally. If a person is rude or non-engaging, it’s about them, not you. Work at keeping your ego out of the interaction.
2. Be non-judgmental. When the critical voices rush out to take center stage and say something nasty about the other person, quiet them down. Focus on a word, mantra, or thought that will return you to a positive place.
3. Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes. Remind yourself that you have no idea what’s going on in another person’s life. She could be sick, having relationship problems, or not have enough money to pay bills.
4. Use Yourself As A Mirror.When a person is closed down and negative, she’s suffering – even if she doesn’t know it. It’s easy to write a person off and walk away angry or hurt. Take a minute to remind yourself that we’re all human – and that there are times in your life when you’re the person who is saying ‘No’.
5. Send silent blessings. This is easy to do when you’re sitting quietly home and meditating. But doing it when you’re in an interaction with someone who is being negative can be daunting. If you can’t do it the first time, try again and again until you get the hang of it.
6. Be kind to yourself. Learning how to practice compassion towards one’s self is important. Let’s face it. When you’re critical of someone else, it’s because you’re hard on yourself. It may sound trite but it’s true. The more you love yourself, the more you can unconditionally love others.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. How do you practice compassion?
Please help Give A Flower, Get A Smile grow by liking our FB page,
watching, and liking our video – above- on You Tube, telling your friends about us and going out and giving flowers to strangers.