GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the hurried morning hours, between coffees and meetings, hundreds of people were stopped on the streets of downtown Grand Rapids Wednesday and asked to ‘petal it forward.’
Some were caught positively off-guard. Others have helped do just that in years past.
“Over the last five or six years, it’s really become a floral movement,” Eastern Floral Operations Manager Megen Kassuba said. “I love the fact that you come up to someone and they don’t realize what you’re doing. And then you get to see that kind of reaction as their brain clicks and (they realize), ‘Oh my goodness, this is someone doing something kind for me and I get to in turn do something kind for them.'”
Eastern Floral joined the Petal it Forward movement in 2015. It’s a international day on which floral shops in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Ecuador, Columbia and India hand out two free bouquets of flowers. They ask only this: Keep one and give away the other away.
“Eighty percent of people love to receive flowers, but 88% love to give flowers,” Kassuba said. “It really is true, people love to give just as much as they love to receive, if not more.”
“Plants and flowers are proven to help reduce anxiety, reduce stress and those things in turn are a boost to your mental health in a positive way,” MHF communications director Jessica Jones said. “Outside of just the flowers themselves, that interaction, the social interaction with somebody else, making a connection with somebody else, those are also things that are good protective factors for our mental health.”
Jones says it’s important for the MHF to partner with Eastern Floral because it gives them the chance to practice what they preach in their mental health education program, be nice.
“We teach people how to be proactive with their mental health. We teach noticing what’s good and right, and then we also teach noticing what’s different,” Jones said. “So good and right today is handing out these flowers and we’ve already run into a couple of people who are like, ‘This totally boosted my mood,’ (or) ‘This helped me have a better day. It didn’t start out too great.'”
Together, with help from a team from WOOD TV8, 750 bouquets were handed out around Calder Plaza, the Blue Bridge, the Amway Grand Plaza, East Grand Rapids and a handful of local nonprofits where residents needed an extra boost to their day.
“A lot of people don’t get to receive flowers or give them away, so you kind of get the best of both worlds, which is awesome,” Kassuba said.
By the time the final bouquet was handed out, nearly 1,000 people had their day unmistakably impacted for the better, whether it was with flowers in hand or connection in mind.
*Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Kassuba’s last name. We regret the error, which has been fixed.