A Little Happier: Should Money Be Used to Buy Fresh Flowers for a Museum?

When conversation is lagging, and I’m trying to spark an interesting discussion, I sometimes pose a thought-provoking question.

Here’s one that I’ve been asking lately: “In 1967, Lila Acheson Wallace funded a multi-million-dollar endowment so that the Metropolitan Museum could display enormous arrangements of fresh flowers in the Great Hall. What do you think of that particular use of the money?”

It’s an interesting question, and I’ve asked it several times. I’ve heard different answers.

  • Some people answer that in a world full of suffering and injustice, that money should be spent to alleviate human pain.
  • Some people answer that the money should be used to buy a piece of art that would endure forever, rather than spent on flowers that bloom and fade and must be replaced.
  • Some people think that it’s a wonderful way to spend the money—to bring life, color, and an air of welcome to the Great Hall of the Met.


I visit the Met every day, and I do get great enjoyment from the five huge arrangements there. I love watching the flowers change each week and through the seasons.

The point of this conversation isn’t to arrive at the “right” answer, one that everyone agrees with, but to have a conversation about values, which helps us to draw closer to other people.




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