REALTOR®’s Random Acts of Kindness Soothe Community

California real estate pro Christina Gray ignites an army of volunteers to drop off plants on the doorstops of those who are struggling emotionally.

When she was 18 years old, Christina Gray’s father passed away. Her uncle, Romano Zan, stepped in to provide her the love and support a parent would. Their bond was one that shaped Gray’s life.

So, in November 2020, when Zan suddenly died from a brain aneurism, the pain felt nearly insurmountable, says Gray, SRES, an agent with Compass in Pleasanton, Calif. At the time, the COVID-19 pandemic was ravaging California, and Gray found that the isolation and constant negative news made her personal loss much more palpable.

“You know, when you go through these things, it’s good to get support from people. But everyone was spread so thin already,” Gray says. “I knew that strength had to come from within. And as a family, we thought, ‘How are we going to rise above this?’”

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Gray, her husband and their two teenagers focused on the idea of fostering their own healing by providing healing to others. They had to get creative because of limited resources and opportunity during lockdown. Californians were still masked and mostly staying home. “We had to figure out what people wouldn’t mind receiving [at their doorstep],” Gray says.

Her family decided to hand out plants to people who were struggling—but they wanted to do so anonymously. “I was talking with two friends of mine who are supportive of all my crazy ideas, and they gave me seed money,” Gray explains. “So, instead of doing five or 10 plants, we were able to buy and give away 50 plants.”

Gray’s family enlisted the help of 10 other families, tasking them with giving away five plants each. Gray told the volunteers to think about the people in their lives who were hurting, needed support or could benefit from being recognized.

In late December 2020, the families rallied together in Gray’s yard. They affixed a tag with an inspirational message to freshly potted pink cyclamens and loaded the plants into their vehicles. Each family dropped their plants on the doorsteps of their chosen recipients.

And that completed the first drop-off for The Planting Love Project.  

“Some of the reactions were caught on Ring doorbell cams, and it was really cool to see,” Gray recalls. Her in-laws were one of the couples chosen to help deliver the plants, and they’d chosen friends of theirs—Heidi and Mike. At that time, Mike was dying of liver failure and in desperate need of a partial liver transplant to survive. “For one full day, they tried and tried to figure out who had given them the plant, which kept his mind off needing a liver.”

Knowing he had received 12 hours of peace from his daily struggle touched her heart, Gray says. But the gift would go on to do much more. Ever the detectives, Mike and Heidi’s sleuthing led them to Gray’s in-laws—and, thus, to Gray. Before long, the local newspaper received word of Gray’s group and reached out for an interview. Then, a local TV station called. Gray used her new public platform to bring awareness to Mike’s need for a liver. The paper ran two stories, and after Gray’s segment aired on television, 11 people called in to help Mike with a liver transplant.

The eleventh person was a match.

“At that time, this brought out the best in a lot of people,” Gray says. “This wasn’t us individually handing out plants—it was all of us. It took a village.”

Today, The Planting Love Project is going strong in California’s East Bay Area and other areas as well. Gray says she has friends in Europe who have started their own chapter. She hopes it continues to spread. “You never know how far the ripple of kindness will go. This was such a simple thing to do, and I didn’t realize it was going to be like this. I hope it inspires others to do the same. I am not The Planting Love Project. We all are.”

As far as her own healing, Gray says The Planting Love Project has helped her and her family process and work through their grief over losing her uncle. They’ve found a way to channel the pain into something that promotes healing on the community level.

“The biggest thing is that it celebrates the memory of my uncle’s life and honors him,” Gray says. “That’s really special. It honors everyone I loved that’s passed away. It carries with it a sense of honor for our family.”