As some of you know, I was in London this week for a 4-day visit. I had lots of family stuff to do, but I wanted to dedicate some time to spreading the word about “A Life I Choose”.
I had heard about the Columbia Flower Market, and obviously, I decided to go, if nothing else, but to look at the gorgeous flowers and take pictures. So, Pete and I got a cab and headed to the east of London. The street was packed full of people! I mean PACKED. There were beautiful flowers – roses, gerberas, hydrangeas, lilies, all types of plants, and even some miniature purple pineapples.
I found bunches of roses (about 20 flowers per bunch) for £5!!! That’s right, £5 for 20 roses… At the florist I regularly go to at home, roses cost about 3.50 euros each! Yikes. I couldn’t be around these gorgeous blossoms at such reasonable prices and not buy any. And ding, dong, a thought rang my vision bell: spread “A Life I Choose” with roses.
I bought 80 roses
So, maybe Pete wasn’t the happiest about having to carry 4 big bunches of flowers back to the hotel, but he was a trooper. Supporting me in my madness, as always. We then went on a search for the perfect tags – something to wrap around the rose stems that would say, “www.alifeichoose.com”.
Once we’d found the tags, we spent about two hours writing on them and tying them to the rose stems. The plan was simple: Go up to people on the street and give them a rose.
Simple, my ass
Going up to people you don’t know…in LONDON…with a big bunch of flowers in your hands does not convey the message: “Nice woman, gives roses as gift, to promote her lovely self-empowering blog”. Apparently, the message received was more: “Woman tries to sell you roses while her husband steals your purse!”
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more vulnerable. First of all, approaching people you don’t know is hard. How do you even say hello? “Hi!”, “Excuse me…”, “Would you like a rose?”… I tried a variation of introductions. All of them gave me a similar reaction: “No thank you!”
Everyone assumed I was trying to sell them something. I mean, yes, okay, I wanted them to check out my blog and see if they liked it. But I also just wanted them to have a gift and feel good about it.
I found approaching people unnerving. I’m not very good at approaching people I don’t know in the first place, but to give them a flower and quickly explain that it’s free and doesn’t contain poison before they run away… it’s a challenge!
I was rejected by many. “No thank you!”, “No, no, no!”, “Eeuugh, no.” With each no my heart sank further and I had to pick it up and whisper, “try again.” I’m not offended by the people who rejected the flower, I understand that in a city so big, you never know who is approaching you and what for. Even in small and relatively safe Malta, I find it difficult to trust strangers approaching me on the street.
The Lovely People
The few rejections that I experienced (about 8 or 10) were trumped by the warm smiles and “thank yous” I received. “This is so lovely!”, “Thank you! What can I do for you?”, “What’s this for?”, “Really? It’s a gift?!” Each person who accepted the rose gave me the encouragement I needed to approach the next person.
There were lovely people along the way who made a difference:
The rickshaw driver: who took interest in what we were doing, said he really liked the idea, and asked if he could take a rose home for his lady.
The homeless guy: who asked for money which we gave him, asked what we were doing, and then asked if he could have a rose to give it to a lady he liked at the tube station – of course we gave him the rose as well.
A therapist: Approached me some time after I gave her the rose, asking what I was promoting. When I told her what the blog was about, she smiled and squeeled, “I’m a therapist too!”. She told me that she loved the gesture, that it actually made her cry, and that she will definitely follow the blog.
Two women in the park: Who loved the idea, and once I told them how awkward it felt, encouraged me to keep going. They even asked to take a picture with me.
People sitting outside a pub: Who really liked the initiative and told me that I was doing a really nice thing.
There was one person in particular
After my first attempt at giving out roses (20 roses down, 60 to go), I took a break because I had an appointment to have my hair done. The hairdresser was a woman from Greece. A beautiful woman – feisty. A person who you can tell, owns her style, and runs her life. Her name was Dora and she wanted to know what I was doing with these roses.
“Hmmm,” she said, her mouth twisting in a sort of disapproval. “If you go up to people in the street in London, you are going to scare them. You need to go somewhere where they are relaxed. In a cafe, or a pub. And you need to have confidence in yourself. You are so nervous…they are going to feel it.”
I loved how frank Dora was with me. It was the first time I’d met her, yet she was so comfortable with giving me constructive criticism. And it was constructive: she didn’t insult me or tear me down. Her message was that she liked my idea, and she was specific on where she felt I could improve it.
After making my hair look gorgeous, Dora actually introduced me to a few people in the salon. I gave them roses and told them what the blog was about.
My interaction with Dora was short, but impactful. I altered my approach with the next 60 roses. I only approached people who looked relaxed. I didn’t go up to people walking from one place to another. I also paid attention to my language, instead of saying, “Would you like a rose?” I said, “Here’s a gift for you.” The word “gift” made a huge difference. People looked at me, turned their bodies towards me. They were open.
Was it worth it?
Did I manage to spread the word of “A Life I Choose”? Yes. In the following days the number of viewers in the UK significantly increased. Did I gain new readers? I think I did gain a few, but I can’t be sure. I know people visited the site, but not many followed the blog/instagram/facebook/twitter. (Hint, hint, do it please 🙂 )
Would I do it again? For sure! Maybe even in different countries. It’s sort of a social experiment. You fall, you get back up, you try again, you try it differently, you see what works, what doesn’t. I met some “mean-ish” people and I met some lovely people. And hey, I put a rose in 80 different homes without entering any of them…that’s pretty cool 🙂
Leave a comment below
I’d love to know your thoughts on this, and if you’ve ever tried or thought of doing anything similar. Also, if I gave you a rose, please give me a shout!
Thanks for your support:
To my number 1 fan: my husband, Peter Brincat
And to all the lovely people I met along the way, especially Dora!
For more pics click: #emmagavemeaflower