Like other Americans (I might sound like I just landed, but I have been here 26 years and have the passport to prove it!), I was thankful for all sorts of things last week. I thanked my fab wife and business partner Lisa, my family, friends, customers, supporters and anyone who has been nice to me since I arrived in this beautiful country! I also thanked my parents for good genes and my brain for listening to smarter brains about lifestyle, diet and ways to live longer than some of my unfortunate grammar school classmates.
Without getting too sanctimonious here, I am truly grateful to any and all factors that allowed me to get this far, but my self-satisfaction evaporated rapidly when I saw the horrific scenes caused by Hurricane Sandy on TV. Like watching a 24 hour car crash, the TV depicted a mesmerizing library of storm power and abject misery.
Some of our older friends may recall that we had a house flood from frozen pipes (in California?) over 20 years ago that trashed everything as water rained from the ceilings for three days while we were in England for Christmas. So, although that was at least clean water, we can relate in some small way to the poor people on the east coast.
We have clients up and down that area so the texting fingers were busy as the storm moved in. In some cases that was the only way to keep contact with them for days.
Now comes the truly thankful piece of this blog. Within hours of the storm hitting, clients from all over the country called and asked if I knew how mutual friends were doing (if even even alive.) We knew some retailers right in the eye of Sandy, did they make it personally, how about their stores etc? It is heartwarming to hear of concerns but the true thankfulness began when within 24 hours of the storm I got a text from a garden center about 30 miles inland (and out of power themselves) saying “Tell the owner of Garden Center X that I have a truck and 4 employee volunteers ready to be there asap to help in anything they ask”.
When we heard that a particular NJ client had several employees who had lost homes, possession, cars etc we started relief funds* for them. More thanks can now given to other nursery people, from as far away as Oregon who sent sizable amounts, no questions asked, to employees they had never met at a store they didn’t even know. Our industry helping our industry – thanks be! And this was in Election week when our country was filled with rancor and division. That was a pre-thanksgiving WOW.
Quite by chance I was already scheduled to consult for a new client right on the bay behind Ocean City New Jersey two weeks after Sandy and as the client pointed out, “When 3 feet of saltwater has flowed through your store and greenhouse it probably is the best time to talk about change!” So off I went to join FEMA, Governor Christie and the throng of power company employees bringing light and warmth to the flooded masses. The devastation was amazing with square miles of ex-dunes now plowed on the street edges like brown snow and orderly piles of beds, cabinets, appliances and life’s possessions lining mile after mile of suburban streets. Oh and a word to city planners and politicians; never never allow homes or any building to be built less than a Bobcat apart! The national building codes have me scratching my head often but this is a no-brainer. Those same dunes are being shoveled out of houses, basements and property setbacks BY HAND! Good work for the local landscapers and I know the country needs more jobs but this is one blunder that no one should repeat, I don’t care how much property tax is at stake.
As reported elsewhere, the spirit of the New Jersey people is amazing. I am not sure if I would have their positive attitude had our house flood been one of saltwater and all manner of things floating. I wish them well and will work with our specific clients there to rebuild better and more efficient than before.
It is a well-worn sentiment at this time of year to say that we should appreciate or value what we have and give to others less fortunate but in this instance I am more than just Thankful, I am impressed that a cliché turned into actions. So I am still Thanking and Giving; hopefully you are too.
*BTW an offshoot of our fund is still open for donations here
image credit: Kevin Connors