Amol Rajan: Grand gestures can elevate us and our situations

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Almost certainly the most romantic gesture in the history of mankind, civilisation, planet Earth and the cosmos took place earlier this month.

A man called Jack – surname and age unknown – from Boston, Massachusetts proposed to his girlfriend Teresa Elsey by organising a vast operation in which dozens of apparent strangers presented her with flowers on an after-work stroll to the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA).

The lavish procedure was brilliantly recorded by several cameras, so that the video, which you can find online, includes a running commentary from a central controller who is in radio contact with his assorted operatives on the ground.

The first stranger to offer a flower is politely turned down. But when a second, then a third, and then many more flowers are offered, Teresa Elsey begins to think something is going on.

Soon she can't hold all the flowers and Jack has to help. She's beaming with joy, suspecting something is up; and then, when they get to the decked area in front of the ICA, it all speeds up.

The single offerings turn into a swarm of people and Jack suddenly disappears. Teresa Elsey can tell this is planned and orchestrated, but is still unsure what one earth is going on. Jack returns – in a Velcro-assisted tuxedo! He leads her to a bench, falls to one knee and, after receiving her agreement the couple kiss in front of a jubilant crowd.

Then they make off for a private dinner, but not before Jack's two brothers – also sporting tuxedos – turn up to give him a high-five.

"Romance is the invention of the bourgeoisie", read a poster on my mate Will's wall some years ago. I'd like at this point to say "in which case, please count me in".

But I can't, because it isn't. Our capacity for romance unites the genders and generations, as well as every country and culture.

Last week, exalting in Mo Farah's Olympic glory and Nasa's Curiosity mission to Mars, I said that both show humanity at its best, largely because they celebrate mankind's love of exploration.

But Jack from Boston shows the best of humanity too, because he celebrates our love of love.

Incidentally, I got engaged this time last week. To the love of my life, under a cloudless sky, on the banks of a river in the city where my dreams first came true.

Like Teresa Elsey, Charlie said: "Of course", not just "Yes", when I was on one knee; and with that, she gave an eternal echo to the happiest day of my life.

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