CORCORAN, Minn. — If friendship had a sound, it could be the footsteps and wheels on one Corcoran driveway. "It's just fun. I have the time; I have the ability to do this."
Twice a week, Pat Erickson sets out the Free Friendship Flower Cart, a cart filled with bouquets that are free for anyone passing by.
"So many people honk after they take one," she said.
This act of kindness started in 2018. Erikson had an abundance of zinnias she had planted to help the pollinators, and started giving them away to friends and neighbors.
Erikson's project grew from there. "I made these signs, and it was a different cart," she said. "It was just a tiny cart, and they were gone like, in that first day. People would drive by and get halfway down the road and then come around and pick up one."
The cart helped push Erikson out of her backyard, and her comfort zone.
Recalling a memorable conversation with a passerby, Erikson said "I had a bouquet or two left, and I held out a bouquet to them and the man, I said 'Do you want a bouquet?' And he said, 'I just took one earlier and put it on a 9-year-old boy's grave up in the cemetery that's a mile away.' That's when I realized that this means stuff to people."
Erikson sometimes finds offerings of gratitude on her cart, such as a rock from a little girl or friendship bracelets and balloons. If the thank-you notes are any indication, the Free Friendship Flower Cart is making people kinder and more thoughtful. Erikson remembered a time when a man passed by, and she asked if he wanted a bouquet. "He goes, 'No, that's okay.' And then he said, 'Well, my wife is sick right now, maybe I'll take one for her.'"
For Erikson, it's an eye-opening and life-changing experience, and she says she gets as much back as her neighbors do. She's learned a lot more about her the people living around her, and realized how isolated she once was, saying "It's such an innocent thing to give away some flowers, and people like it. I've met so many people...people usually [didn't] wave before I started doing this. Maybe I didn't wave either."
Erikson's story was first posted on the Grow with KARE Facebook page. Her picture showed her cart with a message about how much she enjoyed the Free Friendship Flower Cart. Now others are doing the same thing in their neighborhoods!