It was six weeks after Hurricane Sandy and our local dry cleaners was still boarded up. There was no information or phone number posted on the plywood covering the store’s windows. This is not surprising considering that all Sea Bright businesses, except for one, were in the same sorry state.
The problem: My husband, Wayne, had dropped off his best Burberry blazer and two best dress shirts the week before Sandy devastated our town. Hearing stories of how other business owners found their merchandise washed up in the yards of folks in neighboring towns, we had mentally added his favorite duds to our list of losses.
On Dec. 12th Bain’s Hardware was our first local business to reopen, offering a much-needed sign of hope, not to mention a place to buy paint. A few days later, as I power-walked past their storefront I thought, “I should stop in and congratulate them on reopening.” So I did.
As I headed inside I caught a glimpse of the boarded up dry cleaners, noticing that it was right next door to the hardware store. After offering my good wishes to co-owners Frank and Pat Bain I asked, “Do you have any idea of how to contact the owner of the cleaners?” “What for?” asked Pat. I explained our dilemma and Pat replied with a simple order, “Follow me.”
Out the back door of the hardware store we marched, single file, right into the back door of the cleaners. The space was dark and damp. I was surprised to see how many racks of clothing hadn’t been swept away by the storm. “Was it possible for Wayne’s blazer and shirts to still be here?” I wondered.
Pat asked for a description of the items and generously offered to help me search through the racks. Figuring this could take a while, I took a deep breath and proceeded to peer through plastic and decipher the faded tickets, starting with the lowest and easiest to reach rack.
I did a double take when, after barely a minute, our name and address appeared on the next item I grasped! Shocked to see Wayne’s dry cleaning looking pressed and nearly pristine beneath the slightly dirty plastic, I thanked Pat for her help and we celebrated this small Sandy “lost and found” moment. I could barely contain my excitement as my pace quickened and I headed back home.
This small story speaks to me on two levels:
First, it reminds me that we rarely have anything to lose by asking a question. When our tone is on target and our timing thoughtful, most people will try to help. It is very affirming when this happens. Often we’re hesitant to ask for fear of showing ignorance or admitting helplessness. When we push that fear aside we give others a chance to step in and feel the joy of helping a fellow human being.
Second, the actions of Pat Bain show how a small business can make the lives of its customers better, even in ways either party might never imagine. I’ve noticed that this “wow” factor is one of the most powerful ways a business cultivates a loyal clientele. Somehow I can’t imagine someone from Home Depot helping me search for dry cleaning!
So, as we approach the New Year let’s celebrate the small and happy stories in our lives. Let’s be bold in asking for what we need and generous in offering our help to others. Taking time to fully appreciate these moments of joy can help to drown out the sad and tragic news in our world.
Let’s consider what might be lost in our work lives, personal lives, and relationships that we’d like to find. I’d say that maybe by asking for help and giving help to others we might just find it. What would you say?
P.S. A note to the owner of the Sea Bright Dry Cleaners: Please get in touch so we can pay for Wayne’s dry cleaning!
Photo by Vincent Parise of the Rumson Fair Haven Patch