The Growing Kindness Project: Using Flowers to Brighten Your Community
Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. — Desmond Tutu
During both World War I and II, our nation’s answer to food shortage and waning morale was simple: In backyards and empty city lots across the country, families and neighbors literally grew the solution. It was called a Victory Garden, and it gave everyone a real, tangible way to contribute.
Nowadays, we’re facing a different kind of shortage: human connection. While we now have more ways than ever imagined to connect online, we’re less likely than ever to strike up a conversation with a stranger or walk across the road to visit a neighbor.
How do we summon the courage to be the neighbor who walks across the street to say hello or stops by the retirement home just to visit?
What do flowers have to do with turning the tide? What if we could grow a powerful tool to help foster real connection. What if it gave us the courage to walk across the road, down the street, or across town to reach out in encouragement? I believe the answer to our current deficit can still be found in backyards and city lots across the country.
This is exactly what we’ve been doing on our little farm. When I first started growing flowers, I found small ways we could donate flowers in our community. Sometimes it was a “lonely bouquet” dropped on a bus stop bench, other times it was a special delivery to a person who was experiencing hardship or was going through a tough season. Still, other times it was a bundle of blooms for those who serve our town; firefighters, police officers, librarians. Often, it was a wagon full of blooms towed through the local retirement home where we could hand out flowers as we stopped to chat.
It started small, but it began to grow. There’s really nothing inventive or novel about sharing flowers: It’s likely the idea has been around as long as flowers themselves. And yet, I found by sharing the story of giving flowers, the idea was illuminated in a way that inspired others to do the same. The ripple effect of kindness is profound.
You see, kindness is contagious. Even an indirect contact can catch. I didn’t expect the “side effects” of the simple act of sharing flowers. Bystanders and staff members often came up and told us just how much brighter their day was from witnessing the connection that happened because of a flower delivery. As I shared snippets of our project on social media, the ripple moved through an even broader circle. I began to realize that coming in contact with just the story of sharing flowers was inspiring others to share flowers in their cities and towns. It was then I realized the powerful multiplying effect that was possible if I could enlist others to participate in growing kindness through flowers.
As a mama of three with a little farm, I began to see that I could only reach so far alone. But I knew that if I could help others grow their own gardens, the number of people we could encourage would multiply. Teach a man to fish, so to speak. Last spring, we gave away hundreds of tubers to anyone who wanted to grow and share flowers. But I knew I could do more. So this year, we sent out an invitation: We were searching for local volunteers who would be willing to share their little bit of dirt and big hearts to grow kindness in their community.
In April, 26 incredible ladies traveled to our farm from all across the state to participate in our first-ever Growing Kindness Workshop. Together, we learned about soil preparation, planting, plant care, harvesting, as well as tips and insights for sharing flowers with different individuals and organizations in their community. We sent them home with a goodie bag filled with dahlia tubers, plant starts, and supplies to help them jump right in. But more importantly, we linked arms and agreed that together, we’re better. In addition to our local Growing Kindness Ambassadors, the team also welcomed a handful of flower-loving friends across the US who heartily agreed to join, piloting a “national” version of our project. I truly cannot wait to see the way these incredible volunteers grow and multiply kindness and connection in each of their communities.
Word travels fast, and requests started pouring in. Flower farmers, florists, nurses, retirees, master gardeners, homeschool moms, and so many more reached out asking the same question: “How can I get involved?”
The aim of the project is so simple: first, grow some flowers. Next, look around your community. Where is there a need for connection and encouragement? Perhaps the most beautiful part of this project is that each person sees a different need. Now, walk across the street to your neighbors, down the road to a retirement center, over to that mama patiently unloading her grocery cart while juggling three little people, or the fire station or food bank or wherever you see a heart waiting to be encouraged. Now hand them flowers.
It’s that simple. You don’t have to be a part of a team to spread kindness. But being a part of a group can help get you going and keep you inspired, which is why I’m so excited to invite you to be a part of the Growing Kindness Project!
While we’re already planning how we can support more Ambassadors and host more Growing Kindness Workshops next year, this year, I’ve wrapped all the goodness of the workshop into a free downloadable Growing Kindness Guide. I’m sharing the basics of growing and harvesting cut flowers as well as tips and insights for sharing in your community. To help spread the message of Growing Kindness, I’m sharing free downloadable bouquet tags and shareable badge. Team members will also receive newsletters with easy-to-apply gardening advice, flower care, and design tips.
It’s hard for me to imagine just how far the ripples of kindness extend, encouraging us and drawing us all back together. If you’ve got a little dirt and a big heart, I hope you’ll join us in growing kindness in your community! You can also follow along with the hashtag #growingkindness to watch this project bloom and grow in backyards and city lots across the country. If you want to learn more or get involved yourself, visit the Growing Kindness website.
No one has ever become poor by giving. — Anne Frank
All photos by Lacy Edwards.