“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” – Lady Bird Johnson

Lulu Believed Flowers Had Saved Her Life

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Lulu’s Story: A Case Study

While recovering from a serious illness, Lulu had stayed with her good friend Adam. Adam worked as a cleaner at a local hospital and each day he’d arrive home with flowers that patients had left behind on leaving hospital. With what little energy she had, Lulu began to arrange these flowers in a beautiful way, and soon her bedroom became a sanctuary. In doing this, Lulu began to regain her strength, causing her to believe that the few days of life left in each bunch of flowers was giving her back her life, and helping to restore her health.

On recovering more fully, Lulu wanted to share what she believed was the wonderful healing power of flowers with others. And so, she volunteered at the local retirement home, turning up with arms full of beautiful flower arrangements, which she’d place around the home.

Lulu had an idea to develop this further, by way of creating arrangements to bring to the homes of the people who attended the community centre attached to the retirement home as day visitors. Many had expressed how lonely they sometimes felt, and their carers shared with Lulu that this impacted their well-being. Lulu believed that she could create a sanctuary in their rooms as she had done in her own bedroom, and that this would help their well-being.

But to do this she needed a lot more flowers than Adam could bring home from the hospital, and to do this she also needed money to buy the flowers. So she applied to her bank for help. But her loan request was turned down. They said without experience working in the industry, without training, she wasn’t a good risk. They weren’t prepared to factor her volunteering work into their decision.

Lulu was feeling stuck — she didn’t know what to do next.

Book Wisdom

While Lulu had been convalescing at Adam’s home, she had begun reading the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which was on the bookshelf in her room. The premise of the book comes from what Rubin learnt about making and breaking habits — to sleep more, quit sugar, procrastinate less, and generally build a happier life. All of this spoke to Lulu, and as she was pondering what to do next, she opened up the chapter ‘Temporary Becomes Permanent: Clean Slate’.

The following words spoke to her and she considered them to be:

Words of Wisdom

“The slate may be wiped clean by a change in personal relationships. Or a slate may be wiped clean by a change in surroundings. Or some major aspect of life may change.”

“Another aspect of the strategy of the Clean Slate? There’s a magic to the beginning of anything. One person might begin an important habit in a place that’s very beautiful, such as a grand hotel or the beach at sunset. Another person might transform a home or office building.”

The clean slate movement is easy to overlook, however, and too often we don’t recognise that some fresh start is triggering a habit change. Because we’re creatures of habit, the first marks on that slate often prove indelible. We should start the way we want to continue.”

While these words resonated with Lulu, she didn’t really know what they meant for her in her WorkLife, she just felt they had meaning. So, she asked herself that very question:

“What do I need to do to understand what this means for me in my WorkLife?” The self-feedback she received, was that she needed to continue to do what she had started — transforming rooms through her flower arranging, turning them into sanctuaries, because the answer lay somewhere within that.

Then one day as she was putting the finishing touches to a flower arrangement in Joan’s, one of the resident’s, room, her daughter Martha came in and thanked Lulu for everything she had done for her mum. She went on to say how her mum, who was living with dementia, seems less agitated since Lulu had been filling her room with flowers. As they continued talking Lulu shared her story and how she believed flowers had saved her life, and that she felt they had deep inner-healing properties.

Martha asked what she did outside of her volunteering work, enquiring if she had her own flower shop. Lulu told her about the idea of what she wanted to do, and the challenges she was facing. Martha asked why she wanted do this, and Lulu responded saying: “I truly believe flowers helped me to heal and to become stronger both emotionally and physically. I believe the same is true for the people whose rooms I’ve filled with flowers. I believe I can take this further into the community, and I believe the beauty of this will also have a positive impact on people’s lives. I believe my purpose is to help people’s wellbeing by bringing flowers into their life.”

Martha, who worked at a marketing agency, said she believed Lulu could crowdfund the money she needed to get her venture off the ground. She said she could help her to create a video to tell her story, just as she had told it now. She went on to say it’s not about what you want to do, it’s about why you want to do it.


True to Martha’s thinking, this approach worked. Lulu raised the money she needed to fund her project. And this was just the beginning. Lulu soon began to be recognised for her work. For the beauty of her creations and her striking talent, and also for how she was making a difference in people’s lives. The positive impact to people’s wellbeing, and also the positive social impact her flower-arrangement designs were having within the community and among residents, as they stopped to talk and take in the beauty she had created. Soon she was getting paying gigs and being sought out to create her beautiful arrangements inside and outside for local businesses.

I first shared Lulu’s story a long, long time ago. You see, Lulu is part of the fabric of Shoreditch life – or should that be part of the soil? She’s also one of the founding members of a Community WorkLife Book Club. In New Years TalesI tell the stories of chance encounters which led to the formation of the Community WorkLife Book Club.


Lulu’s flowers were featured in my book: WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so, is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life. 

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.