People leaving the downtown Public Library on Wednesday received an unexpected gift, and a request to “share the joy.”

Employees of Saville Flowers were outside the front doors, giving each person two flowers — one to keep, and one to give to a friend, or even to someone you don’t know.

“It’s really sweet,” said Northwestern student Sabrina Schmitt, after receiving her flowers.

“I’m going to give mine to a stranger.”

The flower giveaway, called “Petal It Forward,” is a program from the Society of American Florists. It’s a nationwide campaign, but this is the first year that Saville is taking part.

Shelby Forsyth, a Saville manager handing out the flowers, said that there are “mental health benefits” from giving or receiving flowers.

“It’s a way,” she said, “to remind people that there is beauty in the world.”

Another NU student who was given the flowers, Lydia Plahn, said “it’s a really good idea to give [a flower] to someone.”

The program, she noted, “should be everywhere.”

In Evanston, it was in front of the Library (which cooperated with Saville), and at Saville’s downtown store.

Forsyth said they would keep giving away the flowers until all 1,000 ran out.

Library patron “Ed” receives free flowers from Shelby Forsyth of Saville Flowers.

One flower recipient, who would only identify himself as Ed, said “I think that anything that can give a smile to somebody else is a wonderful thing”

“People don’t smile enough,” he added.

On this day, however, they did.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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