Cultivating Kindness with Plants


This is a wonderful, insightful post from our friends at who graciously let us repost their original content.  Enjoy.

The blue-green wooden benches were borrowed from a restaurant downtown, an unexpected act of generosity and trust. It took a suspension of disbelief to transport them in a city where for many an object’s utility is measured by the width of the subway turnstile — or whether a driver will say yes to putting the seats down. (He said yes.)

By 11 am, the benches were covered with Geraniums, Osteospermums, New Guinea Impatiens, and Basil. Our plant giveaway was about to begin.

The simple idea to “Give a Plant” to brighten someone’s day originated with Colin from Blackpool in the UK. When you listen to Colin speak about how he found purpose and a sense of belonging in his initiative, you can’t help but be struck by the difference just one action can make in someone’s life.

Why is gifting a plant such a powerful way to share kindness?

There’s something in the fact that plants are living, breathing things — and just like humans, require a bit of care to thrive. They sit quietly on the windowsill or luxuriate in our gardens, growing and changing as our memories and experiences grow and change with them. They do not judge; they listen.

On this first day of reprieve after a heatwave, the park was lively but not crowded, showing a weekday mix of tourists, musicians, artists, locals, office workers, and four-legged friends. A couple of Pomeranians did a marvelous job of expressing what humidity looks like on many of us. In a joyful poof of fur, they sauntered on.

But while kindness may come in all shapes and sizes, at its core, it isn’t fluffy. In NYC especially, many of us put up a shield of toughness to protect against the potential dangers of city life. Fluffiness alone can’t get past our carefully composed veneer.

When people approached our benches, it was seemingly with trepidation. When they found out the plants were free, the surprise of the unexpected gesture was apparent. Skepticism gave way to interesting conversations, and several people proclaimed their day was made.

One man chose a plant, and then after careful thought, came back to exchange it for the one he really wanted. It was a lovely moment of personal expression, however small.

So WHY is kindness in the open so unexpected and surprising?

Many of us declare being kind an important quality, but when we talk about acts of kindness, we want to do them furtively; anonymously.

Of course, it’s fun to pay it forward by paying for someone’s coffee or meal, and then walking away before they know who did it. We’re busy, we’re shy, and these types of kind acts do have an impact.

But what would happen if we took the opportunity to use an act of kindness to make a connection?

What if we stood up proudly for kindness, and took the masks off the kind faces all around us?

Today at the park, we did our best to do just that. It was uncomfortable when people waved us away. But it was beautiful when people accepted plants and shared their stories.

A woman who recently arrived in the US brought home a flower to keep her company in her new home.

A man who had his hair cut a few blocks away—for free, for years—found the time to choose a plant to thank his hairdresser, and to return for another one in her favorite color.

A woman in a wheelchair was moved to tears.

A man on a bike knew the perfect flower to take to a beautiful woman he knew.

A family from Texas who couldn’t take any home let their children pick out two plants to give to strangers.

By 2:00, all the plants were gone and the benches were returned to their rightful owner.

Tonight, as lights go out across the city, the plants will be settling into their new homes — in a community garden, in the backyard, on bookshelves and coffee tables.

Wherever the plants take root, we hope that kindness takes root, too.

-The NwP Team

Photo: A garden near Scarborough – 9,  (Thomas Tolkien via WikiMedia Commons )

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