Rochel Burstyn introduces readers to her cousin Feiga Bowick, who began a program to deliver bouquets to residents at living facilities.
Allow me to introduce my fabulous cousin Feiga Bowick, LLMSW. She’s a geriatric social worker, currently working as resident service coordinator at the Harriet and Ben Teitel Apartments, an independent senior living community (part of Jewish Senior Life) in Oak Park.
Every Wednesday morning, this awesome mom of five can be seen dropping off her kids at school and then driving up to Trader Joe’s in Royal Oak, where between 15 and 60+ gorgeous bouquets of flowers are waiting for her. Feiga fills up her trunk with the donated flowers and drives to work, first delivering bouquets to the residents who live at the Coville Assisted Living and Memory Care Apartments, the Anna and Meyer Prentis Apartments (independent senior living) and then “her” residents at Teitel.
In the almost four years since she began this program, thousands of bouquets have been divided and arranged by hundreds of senior residents. Once arranged into little vases, the flowers go on every tabletop space in the dining and living areas, adding charming pops of color throughout the building and being thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who sees them.
Flower arranging originally appealed to Feiga because she realized that every resident was able to participate, regardless of their cognitive or physical limitations. One resident was over 100 years old, and blind — but even she was exclaiming at the texture and scent of the flowers. Another had lost the ability to speak, but was still touching and enjoying them.
“There’s something about flowers,” Feiga mused. “When I’m carrying them, whoever I pass automatically smiles. People can’t help it. Flowers just make people happy.”
Even just one flower can do it! Recently one senior resident bought a bouquet of roses (“On sale for $2.99,” he later told Feiga proudly!), divided them up and gave a single rose to each Teitel staff worker with some genuine words of thanks. Feiga was so touched.
“It’s just knowing that someone thought of me, that someone appreciates me,” she said.
All in all, Wednesdays should be annoying for Feiga — heading out of her way, water spilling all over her car, such a shlep, what a hassle — but no, it’s her favorite day of the week.
It helps that Trader Joe’s has a reputation for being all-round awesome (long live their cherry chocolate chip soy ice cream!) — they even make Feiga feel like she’s doing them a favor by taking their leftover bouquets! Which makes Feiga come into work with her usual big heart overflowing and eager to make others feel good, and these smiles and good feelings continue to spread all day, all week, from resident to worker to visitor to volunteer and around the city, until the following Wednesday when the fresh batch of flowers arrives… This brings her so much joy because happiness, as we all know, comes from giving.
“One thing I’ve learned from being a social worker is that people want to make an impact,” Feiga said. “There are so many amazing people with such huge hearts. Not everybody has to do a humungous sweeping mind-blowing act of kindness every day. There are little ways to give to others that can literally change their world. We have no idea what’s going on in other people’s lives and can never know what difference even just a genuine smile, with eye contact, and a kind word can make.”
It has not been an easy year for anyone — from trying to figure out how to elbow bump friends from 6 feet apart to how to open those plastic bags in the fruit and vegetable aisle without licking your finger, to say the least — but the year is finally ending.
Move over, COVID! We’re ready for small acts of kindness that keep on spreading and making the world a better and happier place for everyone to go viral now!
Happy, healthy 2021 to everyone!