As I was walking through town to the library, I passed a young man and woman on the sidewalk. The gal asked if I would like a flower, and held out a handful of small, colorful blossoms. Well, of course I would, so I took one, thanked her, and wished them a good day. It was a rather simple, yet meaningful, exchange that left me one flower richer.

To be frank, I didn’t want to carry around a little red flower that would wilt in half an hour or less. I began plotting whom I would pass it off to, and decided to hand it to the librarian when I returned my book. This plan was swiftly altered, however, as I saw a young girl walking with her father ahead of me on the sidewalk. She smiled and took the little red flower when I offered it, and I felt that she had been the “correct” person to give it to.

But as I went into the library, I saw a small boy holding his dad’s hand, looking downcast and rubbing his eyes, and I wished I’d held onto the little red flower so he could have gotten it. I wished I had taken two from the gal to begin with — no, three — for the young girl, the small boy, and the ever-helpful librarian. I wished I’d had enough blooms for the police officer I’d also passed, for the professional woman going to the courthouse, for the older lady who’d stopped to express admiration for my bare feet, for the kindly mailman with his colorful turban — in short, for everyone I’d seen that day.

The little red flower had lifted my mood almost imperceptibly. But maybe it made the young girl’s day much better; maybe the small boy would have stomped on it; maybe it would have made the librarian tear up with gratitude. The point is, I really don’t know who “should have” gotten it from me.

Everyone is equally deserving of  impromptu flowers, aren’t they? But we don’t all need flowers with the same intensity. Little red flowers make a bigger difference to some than to others. Person A may derive a greater benefit from receiving a carnation from a stranger than Person B, and it’s hard to tell who would benefit the most. Maybe the solution is to always carry rhododendrons and roses to palm off, hand out, slide into backpacks, and offer to all the people we don’t know. 

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