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Single Rose Project: Sammamish woman gave away free roses for a year

I accompanied Sammamish artist Carrie Schmitt as she walked through Seattle’s U-District, wearing a flower print dress and a necklace that reads “Follow the Roses.” Poking out of her bag were a dozen red and white roses that she planned to hand out to strangers on the street. Schmitt started “A Single Rose Project,” where she gave a rose to a stranger every day for a year.

“A little over a year ago I was going through a really hard time, suffering through some heartbreak and just general melancholy,” Schmitt said. “So I started meditating a lot and one day a voice popped into my head and said, ‘Follow the roses and everything will be okay.’ Every time I meditated I would hear that, ‘Follow the roses.’ That triggered a memory of my grandparents My grandfather used to give my grandmother a rose every month. I decided to do it for a year. I gave away a rose every day for a year as a daily practice to hold on to hope.”

She found that this small gesture, and the joy and connection it brought, made her feel better nearly immediately.

single rose project

(Courtesy photo)

“People just light up. There’s a very common thing that happens, I noticed a pattern,” she said. “Initially they look really surprised and then they light up and they smile. You can see the air around them change. I noticed on the third day a light around this elderly man. I started calling it the Rose Glow. It reminds us that we all are deserving of love and affection and kindness.”

But approaching strangers can be nerve wracking.

“It’s a little awkward and sometimes it doesn’t always go well,” Schmitt said. “People get scared or they say no. I understand that because I’m a fearful person too and I never take offense to that. A lot of people think I want something. It does say a lot about our culture, I think, that we always expect there’s some other motive. That’s kind of sad. I think it makes it more important to do [a project like this], to remind people there can just be acts of kindness from strangers. I do think we are all kind of afraid of each other.”

A Single Rose Project

But plenty of people accepted Schmitt’s rose, which sometimes turned into a magical moment.

“The timing was always really interesting. It seemed like the rose found whoever was meant to receive it that day,” Schmitt said. “One woman had just found out she’s pregnant the night before and she took it as a blessing that everything was going to go well. That was really a sweet moment. I was one of the first people she told so I was really honored. On my birthday I gave a 94-year-old woman a rose. It was her birthday too and I didn’t know it. So that was really fun. One woman, she started crying because her husband used to give her a rose every month and he had died. And she said, ‘This is from him, he’s telling me he’s okay.’ I was in the store and everyone’s crying, she’s crying. So just the people that came into my life, there were these miraculous stories.”

Schmitt says A Single Rose Project unwittingly turned into a social experiment.

“When I would give the roses away I noticed that very elderly people and young people were really receptive to receiving it,” Schmitt said. “But I noticed that women my age, in their 40s, 50s, they had a lot of fear. So it was kind of like a social experiment. I never had anyone in a minority group, or ethnic group, they’ve never said no to the rose. They were really receptive. There was some race and class and all kinds of issues that came up. That was really eye opening as well. Who’s fearful and who is more open.”

Schmitt ended the yearlong Single Rose Project by handing out roses and pastries at a Hope Place, a Seattle women and children’s shelter.

“Because when I started it I didn’t have a lot of hope and I was struggling,” she said. “So to end there and see the resiliency and the community, it was beautiful.”

To learn more about the Single Rose Project and to see Schmitt’s beautiful artwork, click here.

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