Thinking back and looking forward

Most of us with a fair amount of ‘life experience’ under our belt can probably think back and remember those milestone events that are permanently etched in our memory.  It might be personal, like the birth of a child, the death of a parent or meeting your spouse.  Or it might be those events that impact us all.  A few for me were watching my Mom crying in the kitchen the day John F. Kennedy was shot, watching the Challenger explode on the televisions in the hall of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and being at SciQuest on September 11th, huddled around a TV in the break room.

There is no question that the pandemic now impacting all of us will leave another permanent marker in my memory and that of virtually every person on the planet.  Unlike events that happened in a short time frame, this one is playing out over days, turning into weeks, turning into months and beyond that, no one really knows.

Chances are you’ve received more than your share of emails about the virus, many from companies you’ve not heard from in a long time.  Instead of rehashing things that you’ve probably already heard or read somewhere else, I wanted to share some of what I’ve been thinking about over the past days and weeks.

Do you sleep in a storm?

In one of my posts titled, ‘Do you sleep in a storm’, I shared a video of my experience at the Men’s Retreat at August Turak’s farm.  The of the video title came from an excerpt in Mitch Albom’s book, Have a Little Faith.

In it, Mitch tells a story of a farm hand looking for a job.  His letter of recommendation from his former employer reads simply, “He sleeps in a storm”.  After being hired, a storm erupted waking the farm owner from sleep.  He calls for the hired hand but finds him sleeping soundly.  He runs out to check the animals, the hay and the grain, finding everything safe and secure.  And then, he understands why “He sleeps in a storm”.

Don’t look back

I shared a story from my teenage years in a post titled, ‘Don’t look back’.  I talked about the risks of looking backward when going fast, in a forward direction.  In that case I was sledding down a hill on a car hood, backwards, hence I couldn’t see the tree.  I am truly blessed to be around today to tell that story and thankfully, Mom is not reading this right now.

Obviously, we are all caught up in a story that is moving forward and changing rapidly, at break-neck speed.

Maybe lagniappe is the answer

And finally, I’ve been thinking about what has become one of my favorite words, ever, ‘lagniappe’ (for those of you who don’t speak Cajun, it is pronounced ‘lan-yapp’).  Renee’ and our friends from Uptown Endodontics taught us this word years ago when we sent them an extra basket of our cookies after they placed a large order with us.

I’ve never forgotten her call to thank me for the lagniappe and for adding such a powerful, life-changing word to my vocabulary.

I cannot think of a better time in history, for all of us to put others first and focus on what little extra we can do for each other.

From the very beginning of this company, we’ve always strived to do things in a way that allow us to sleep well at night and weather whatever storms come our way.  From the recession of 2008, to skyrocketing commodity pricing, to the pandemic, we’re never anxious to enter another storm, but committed to taking care of our customers, our suppliers and the people who work with us just as we’ve always done.

This pandemic is moving and changing at incredible speed.  Our World and how we interact in it has forever changed.  If we spend our time looking backwards at our business, there is a risk of running into something like the tree, and I might not be as lucky this time.

And finally, I do believe that ultimately the answer is not to do less, but to do more.  Lagniappe is more than just a word, it’s a philosophy of looking at how we treat those around us.  It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive.  It’s about doing what you can to improve someone’s life in any way you can.

The long view

I watched a Simon Sinek video on the difference between Optimism and Positivity.  I’m choosing optimism, doing my best to look as far forward in the future as I can without focusing too much on short term events and news stories.

I was in the wooded area behind our house the other day when I saw an azalea bush strutting its stuff in full bloom.  I planted this bush nearly 22 years ago.  When Anna was born, my Aunt Lois (read the ‘Rest of the Story’) could not come out for a visit, so she asked me to buy something for Anna and plant it to remember her by.  I did exactly that and it is thriving to this day.  She lived a full and robust 91 years and took the long view of life.

It’s okay to sweat the small stuff

In the past weeks, Anna’s Gourmet Goodies gave away free cookies to restaurants to help with takeout orders.  We sent cookies to a group of ER ICU nurses who were having to put their patients on DNR due to lack of equipment.  And I dropped off some brownies to help with an Easter basket for a family whose father was laid off.

The things we are doing at Anna’s Gourmet Goodies are not big things, but we believe that in some small way, they made a difference.  In many ways they are the same things we’ve always done.  But now, they’re even more important.  They are all based on the same principle that we’ve followed since starting this company, to make people happy.  I believe that continuing to focus on doing that is a recipe that stands the test of time.  Like the azalea I planted all those years ago, we do our best work when we take the long view.

We have some customers that have ordered fewer cookies as demand for their business shrinks.  And we’ve had others, including some new companies, that have stepped up orders to reach out to friends and customers who could use a little extra touch right now.  Rest assured that we’re packing the same amount of love and care into every, single, shipment.

It’s my hope that you’ll be inspired to spend a little time thinking back on where you’ve been and what you’ve learned.  Try your best to be prepared.  Do a little extra when you can to make people happy.  And if there is something that Anna’s Gourmet Goodies can do to help, we think we have the right recipe.

But whatever you do, be careful not to spend too much time looking back.  The way out of the woods without hitting a tree, lies in front of us.

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