If I had to summarize my outlook on life, I would have to say Alexander Pope’s “An Essay On Man” depicted it best when he wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Various interpretations characterize his words: “People will always be optimistic and think something better is coming.” That certainly describes me!
I’ve often thought, “Is it the child in me who wants to see life through rose-colored glasses, or is it my desire to see the best in people and what life offers?” I sense I’m not the only one as I find many who I meet are on the same path as me, looking for those little nuggets along our life’s journey that bring us joy. When you think about it, every month of the year has that little “treat” we refer to as a holiday we celebrate with great anticipation. However, when you look into the history of many of these holidays, their origins are vastly different than how we celebrate them today. We have molded them into a day that makes us feel good and gives us that renewed “optimism.” Think about it. January starts our new year, a clean slate, if you will. Some people look at it as a start of a better year than the previous one. New resolutions are made, and who cares if they are broken a few weeks later, we feel like we got a fresh start. February brings us Valentine’s Day, and who would think we somehow could turn a day honoring 2 Christian martyrs into a romantic day for lovers. March amazes me as St. Patrick would never have deemed people from all walks of life and races would claim their Irish heritage and celebrate it until all hours of the night. Somewhere along the way, the fact that it was to celebrate the arrival of Christianity into Ireland got lost between the corned beef, Irish soda bread, and another round of beer. May brings us spring flowers, Cinco de Mayo, and a day to honor our Mothers. While I understood the significance of Mother’s Day and spring flowers, can someone explain how a kid from New York interprets a day when Mexico celebrates its victory over the French Empire in The Battle of Puebla, known as Cinco de Mayo,” as one he should commemerate as well? June was one of my favorite months as it was not only the month of my birthday but Father’s Day and the start of another great summer. Soon to follow was the 4th of July, and all we could think of were those great summertime barbeques and firework displays and not so much as those who gave of themselves fighting for our independence. While August didn’t have any particular holiday we looked forward to, it was the last month of a summer that was in full swing. Then came Labor Day, and once again, we somehow interpreted this day that originated as an observance of the labor unions contributions to the U.S. economy, as almost a weekend of rest and one final celebration before heading back to the drudgery of another school year. If you were like me, I bet you couldn’t wait for Halloween to arrive, and whoever would have thought we could have turned a day of observance for the deceased, martyrs, and saints into a night of ghoulish activities, costumes, and shopping bags full of candy! November brought Thanksgiving, which not only was the beginning of the holiday season but seemed to make us a bit more appreciative of the things for which to be grateful. There was a desire to savor the day in the company of family and friends, and it was perhaps one of the few holidays that genuinely made us reflect on the significance of that day. Then came Christmas for those of the Christian faith, and like most kids, it was a day we looked forward to since the end of summer. While it was supposed to signify the birth of Jesus Christ and God’s plan to bring salvation to the world, somehow, our focus was more about the gifts we showered on each other, and the Christ child in a manger got hidden behind that new bicycle and the mountain of toys.
I bet you think I forgot about April, didn’t you? For many, it represents the month that “God giveth and the taxman taketh away.” Perhaps Easter is God’s way of helping us endure that pain; however, Easter represents much more to me. The beginning of spring was starting to bloom. The air seemed fresher, and everything seemed to come back to life. As a child, my early recollections were of an Easter Bunny delivering a brightly colored basket full of jelly beans, a chocolate cross and rabbit, and a stuffed baby duckling, all nestled on a bed of colored cellophane grass. But, of course, no Easter would be complete without the dying of eggs and the Easter egg hunt that soon followed. As I got older, I thought, what sense did all of this make. Easter is supposed to be a celebration of the risen Christ and the hope of many for eternal life, and somehow we have a rabbit delivering colored eggs and candy. Did someone tell the rabbit he walked onto the wrong movie set?
I was relieved to find, according to Time, this “egg-laying hare” stems from a pagan tradition known as the Festival of Eostre, which honored the goddess of fertility and spring. It is said the goddess’s animal symbol was the rabbit, which stood for high fertility and reproduction rates. If you live in my community you will see first-hand the rabbits have successfully continued this time-honored tradition! However, in the 1700’s, German Immigrants coming to Pennsylvania brought this tradition of “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws,” an egg-laying hare that would lay colorful eggs and give them to good children. I can’t tell you my relief as I must have been one of the good ones, or of mistaken identity, as I always awakened to a big Easter basket full of every sugar-filled treat known to man!
Do you remember the line in National Lampoon’s movie Christmas Vacation, where Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, was expecting his year-end bonus to build a swimming pool? Gathered around him in anticipation of his big bonus check arriving any moment was his entire family and of course his Cousin-in-Law, Eddie, who according to Clark said, “his heart was bigger than his brain.” When Clark opens up what he thinks is his Christmas bonus only to find out he is enrolled as a member in the “Jelly of the Month Club,” Eddie blurts out, “The gift that keeps on giving.” While this movie has become a Christmas tradition our family watches each year, Eddie’s line is one of the most quoted of all those we have collectively memorized and perhaps the one that has the most significant meaning to me.
Not that I have aspirations of joining the Jelly of the Month Club, but many times this year I have been asked, “How has business been…it must be a great time to be a Realtor?” While it has been a good year, this business is far from shooting fish in a barrel, as anyone who understands the real estate market can attest, it is characterized by peaks and valleys. However, after almost 18 years in the business, I can honestly say there is something much more rewarding than just listing or selling a property; it is the friendships we’ve made along the way. To me, that is the true “Gift that keeps on giving.”
Through these friendships, we’ve been all over the world from Singapore and Vietnam to Europe and South America. We traveled through the back roads of our great country and journeyed the Intracoastal from Florida to New England. We’ve met politicians and have been to some of the most dangerous locations in the middle-east. “How did you get to do all of this in such a short life span you may ask?” While I’ve experienced some very special places when traveling through our country, unfortunately the closest I’ve gotten to Europe was a road trip to Massachusetts. Sarah Palin may have claimed to see Russia from her home in Alaska, but through the intimate stories told by clients who became close friends we feel as if we experienced these real-life stories and adventures, many of which we hope to take ourselves someday.
Everyone has a story or knows of someone who has a storied background, but when you have the opportunity to spend as much time with clients as we do, their histories come to life in a way that makes you feel as if you went through a time with them. I remember one client who had been in the largest naval battle to this day. He was on a 500 ft. aircraft carrier in the Philippines and to listen to his story of the incoming fire they took, you couldn’t help but feel you were right alongside him. Other clients spoke of Communist regimes they escaped and how their families lost everything they had to come to our country. Others have been in the entertainment industry, some have been writers and still, others have created products that are widely used today. There have been CEOs and those that rose from poverty to creating highly successful businesses, going on to mentor others so they could have an opportunity to better themselves. We’ve also heard countless stories from physicians, who without fanfare traveled abroad to many third world countries administering to those in need, and did I mention a Grammy award-winning Pastor whose lives he continues to touch each day? For those of you whose stories have appeared in our newsletters you know who you are, and how your stories have had such an impact on my life, as have so many others.
Some people measure success by the sales teams they put together and the volume of business they claim they do, but we’ve learned there is something much more important to life that isn’t found in the profit and loss column.
We live in a time where the media is focused more than ever on negative news and the things that divide us, not the common ground that can bring us together. When I see thousands of people turn out in mass to simply watch the lighting of a Christmas Tree or eight Clydesdale horses pulling a wagon through the streets of our downtown with two men and a Dalmatian sitting alongside them, I think to myself, “aren’t these the timeless pleasures we seem to embrace, and innately desire to enjoy?”
Do you ever find yourself looking forward to that “holiday” of the month with the same anticipation you did as a kid? For me, I think of those special days almost as the dessert after a wonderful home-cooked meal. When I think of those days I find they mean the same to me today as they did when I was a child, and perhaps are the only traditions that haven’t changed throughout the years. I think of the fun we had on Halloween trick or treating in our costumes, Thanksgiving where we played touch football games before gorging ourselves on turkey and all the side dishes until we couldn’t move, and what more needs to be said about the excitement of the holiday season and New Year! While each month brings us a unique joy in its own way, the ones I find that make us all seem to laugh and take life a little less seriously are St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your religion, ethnic background, or political beliefs, on those days we proudly celebrate with revelry as if that was part of our ancestry.
Recently we had dinner with a couple who introduced Gail and me on a blind date 35 years ago. They are from New York where the husband has had a jewelry business in the heart of New York’s Diamond District for many years. We were dining outside in St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota and this couple was looking around like two kids entering Disney World, amazed at the number of people out and about enjoying the shops, restaurants, and beautiful evening weather. They had been to Florida many times before but this time was extra special as New York has been shut down to a large degree, and according to the husband, New York City has become a ghost town of sorts with rising crime rates and the closure of many businesses. However, despite the depressing news from New York, our conversations are always full of laughter as the husband has an uncanny sense of humor and like most wives, she just rolls her eyes.