Teeny-Tiny Minorities Fight Back

Do you have the right to a poinsettia plant on your desk at work, even if your co-worker is deathly allergic?

If the only thing someone must sacrifice in life is a poinsettia at one’s work place, that one will have lived a blessed life, indeed.

Not according to some peoples’ reaction to Bell Canada’s ban of holiday poinsettias at a large Mississauga office. Six thousand employees at the Creekbank campus were warned of the ban because one of their fellow employees could have a life-threatening allergic reaction to the plant. The worker’s duties include visiting all the buildings on the campus.

Some are asking, “Is it fair to impose the needs of one on thousands of others?” Talk about a question with bias written all over it. Well, two can play that game.

To me, the more important question should be, “Is it too much to ask fellow workers to forgo a plant for the welfare of one co-worker?” Bell Canada is setting a healthy example: self-sacrifice over individual discomfort. Of course, I’m being facetious. Discomfort? Workers live without poinsettias for the other eleven months of the year! What’s one month?

The naysayers cite similar examples to belabour their point: declaring peanut-free zones and banning scented products in public buildings as infringing on their personal freedom. What next, they say?

Not to be outdone, I have examples to prove my point: that a little self-sacrifice wouldn’t permanently harm their poor poinsettia-less working day lives. I remember a seriously ill local girl who was surprised when the students from her school showed up at her residence to wish her a happy birthday. They could have stayed at school, avoiding the downer of seeing one of their peers struggle with her mortality. But the sight of that young girl’s smile alone was worth the students’ time.

And what about a young boy who lost his hair due to chemotherapy treatments? So he would feel a part of instead of different from his peers, the boys on his sports team shaved their own locks. And this was at the students’, not the teacher’s, suggestion.

Why, even this past June, six-year-old Katelyn of Red Harbour, NL donated 12 inches of her hair to Angel Hair For Kids, a program that provides wigs to financially disadvantaged children in Canada who have lost their hair due to a medical condition or treatment. With the help of family and friends, Katelyn also raised $3000 for the organization.

Probably the people who complain about a poinsettia-free work place wouldn’t get the point of these examples, as they expect others to look after themselves.

I recall years ago, one writer making the case that teeny-tiny minorities aggravate, that they should close their windows and start life anew in Inuvik and not expect the whole world to dance to their sorry little tune.  Really? I say, open your own window to the real world.

Sadly the local girl I cited earlier succumbed to cancer. Those students who visited her learned a valuable lesson that day. It cost nothing to sacrifice just a little.

Myopic tirades are just that. If you don’t like the unselfish spirit displayed by Bell, why not find another job, start life anew somewhere else?

I hear Inuvik is great this time of year.

Where do one person’s rights end and another’s begin? Can you legislate compassion?


Read more: Muslim and Agnostic Collide over Daughter’s Wish for Christmas Lights

Image credit: puuikibeach/Flickr

About Donald D'Haene

Donald D'Haene started his own successful theatre/opinion web site: http://www.donaldsdish.ca, is an author (Father's Touch), Huffington Post Blogger, and was one of the male Survivors on the Oprah 200 Survivors Episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, November 2010. Follow Donald D'Haene on Twitter @TheDonaldNorth.


  1. You’re want a Poinsettia Party?

  2. These teeny-tiny minorities interpret any “ban” or restriction as though they are being punished, as if the teacher decided the whole class can’t go to recess because one student was acting up.

  3. Poinsettia-gate is really about employers being obliged to protect employees. There is nothing in contract that makes it a right for any employee to have a Poinsettia in the workplace, but under contract and a mass of legislation there is an obligation to the employer to protect.

    The comparison with the kids breaks down when it’s about having poinsettias. Where it would work is when one person takes the imagination to say “Hell lets not have poinsettias – lets take this as an opportunity to see that allergies kill – so this Holidays season we are all going to get with the program and not leave anyone behind.”.

    Hell – even the business could do it themselves and show some corporate smarts. It may even bring in an extra buck. Every little helps, including a cents worth of genius.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    It depends. “deathly allergic”, if literally true, is one thing.
    When I was in school, the cafeteria served peanut butter sandwiches. We weren’t seeing busloads of kids taken off to the emergency room. Be worth finding out what happened (possibly use of a peanut oil extract in lotions for newborns) that now peanuts may kill people.
    But then there’s Keith John Sampson–interesting story about meatheads in his office and in the admin of IUPUI–known locally as eyeoopooey. They didn’t like him reading about how the Fighting Irish had run the KKK out of town. Even the admin was gunning for him.
    So, what exactly is the complaint of the minority and do we need to worry about it?

    • I dunno when you were in school, but I’m just going to throw out there a study by Scott H. Sicherer (Jaffe Food Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine) which showed peanut allergies in the US have TRIPLED from 1997 to 2008. Holy shit that’s crazy.

      I think the point is something more like: “Instead of seeing this (poinsettia removal) as a restriction of personal freedom, we should reframe the situation as an opportunity to empathize with someone who can never enjoy them for health reasons.”

      Maybe the company should have just made a big announcement, like “There’s someone in these offices who’s deathly allergic to Poinsettia, so feel free to display it but know that you are an uncaring asshole who might murder a co-worker for no reason.” I doubt anyone would’ve displayed the plant. But there are legal considerations, so the company had to enact a ban.

      I think it speaks to a larger culture of narcissism in the US where people reactionarily consider any small inconvenience like that a personal attack. We’re quick to cry “What happened to the first amendment!!” when we can’t eat peanuts everywhere, but are complacent about, for example, Citizen’s United. Blech

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