First Mission Complete: A Journey to Give Back
I think we can all agree that 2020 is a year that so far has been...unexpected, to be put lightly.
When we decided to create this company just a few short years ago, we had differing views and some collective worries about the risks of starting a family business; but one of the main priorities we all agreed upon was developing something that could be bigger than our personal desires. From the very beginning our hope has been that Petals & Roots could be a platform for our family to benefit others, encourage wellness, and spread love. While we had dreams of some day being "big enough" to make a positive impression on the world, it seemed like a distant reality. Never in a million years could we have guessed the circumstances in which the first big opportunity to impact our community would arise, or what would unfold by accepting it.
At the start of 2020, we were facing personal unique struggles that have humbled us all individually and collectively, just as you were. Anxieties about health, family, travel, work, education, quality of life, and our new small business were swirling around as our highly populated area grew sicker by the day. After weeks of waiting for what each news cycle would bring, we made a concerted effort to refocus our energy. Instead of attempting to understand the giant scope of hurt that was occurring worldwide, we looked for guidance in what to do as a family and as a company, and consciously turned our attention to the blessings of each day. As our perspective shifted, an amazing thing happened. The fears of "what if" became less, and the possibilities available became more clear. We realized that while we were all still healthy, together, and provided for, there may be an opportunity to help others who are in need. But how?
The answer came almost as quickly as we asked it. I sought advice from a trusted friend about how to approach our overloaded inventory while our in-person sales events were on hold. She put an idea in my mind about creating a virtual product line that could be given as a gift to others. While that sounded like a nice idea, I can't deny that concerns of "but so many people are financially hurting right now", and "who really needs skincare at a time like this?" were present in my mind.
Later that day my husband Joe and I were taking a walk around our neighborhood contemplating this very topic when we ran into our longtime neighbor, Rachel. She was dressed in scrubs, walking her dog between shifts at the hospital. She was kind as ever, giving us increasingly depressing updates of all that she was experiencing this week on her floor at Inova Fairfax. The impossibility of her current work environment suddenly hit us both. These were extreme circumstances she and her team were facing every day, and here she was taking the time to calmly give us updates, just being a friendly neighbor. I wanted to reach out and give her the biggest hug in that moment; and I realized she probably needed that more than I could imagine. We described to her a little bit about our company and asked if she or her coworkers would be interested in receiving our products as a gift. Her reaction was an overwhelming YES! "Anything to lift up their spirits or acknowledge what they are dealing with right now is greatly needed." she said. Then she held up her hands. "Could it help with this?"
Cracked, red, dry, on the verge of bleeding. They must have been washed a thousand times that week. And then we knew exactly what we could do. Just a few days later, "Lifting Hearts & Healing Hands" was born.
As we started preparing the ideas, materials and communication with the hospital, I will admit that there were plenty of doubts about the scope of this mission. "Is it alright to ask people for money during this time?" "What if our message doesn't resonate?" "Did we bite off a little more than we can chew right now?" But thankfully we have learned time and again with this business and our personal lives, that we are all capable of a lot more than we think when we trust in the plan that is placed in our hearts. I'm so glad we did.
From the very first day we launched the campaign we were overwhelmed with the amount of support that came pouring in. People from all over the East Coast were not only willing, but gladly purchasing packages for people they didn't know, and thanking us for the opportunity to do so. Caring community members, friends from our small hometown in NY, veteran nurses from other counties and states, family members, former co-workers and friendly faces that we hadn't spoken to in decades all stepped up to be part of this mission. While we worked to get the word out, we found that there was no shortage of people who wanted to support the medical community, or just wish us well on the journey. As the month of May went on, we excitedly pushed on towards our goal. We had no idea that this mission was about to become a lot more personal for our family.
The early morning text was simple: "An ambulance took Grandpa to the hospital. They think he had a stroke this morning..."
The man on his way to the hospital was not only our last surviving grandparent and the patriarch of our NY based family; his life story could easily be a best seller example of triumph over challenge. At almost 97 years old, he has survived an unbelievable amount of hardship, personal loss, and change. He is a WWII veteran, a wealth of knowledge, and one of the kindest men I've ever known. And now he was experiencing a medical crisis that put him right in the center of the pandemic world, where his loved ones were not allowed to follow. The thought of him being alone in the hospital, without his family to rally around him and advocate for him in the possible last days of his life broke my heart in indescribable ways. As our family attempted to reach the hospital and get information about his condition, we were met with polite, but hurried and incomplete updates. It was very clear that we were not the only family desperately seeking communication about a loved one. Although I understood that protocol and extreme circumstance made it impossible for the nurses to meet our needs as a family, it was still overwhelmingly painful.
It was then I realized that Lifting Hearts & Healing Hands was not just about the hospital employees. It was also about the patients, the hurting families and friends of those patients, and anyone who was in contact with those employees, too. Because if we could encourage or lift up one person working in these terrible conditions, even temporarily, then maybe they could have the ability to be a tiny bit kinder, gentler or more patient with a sick and scared person, a worried family or a tired coworker. I appreciated every single ounce of patience that was mustered up to communicate with our family, and certainly every act of care that was shown to my grandpa while we were absent. It became so obvious that to reach out in support to anyone right now was no small act. Even just a little bit of love had the potential to spread through so many facets of pain.
I am so grateful to report that my grandfather was released from the hospital a week later. From then on we approached our mission with a new sense of purpose and appreciation, just in time for the best part.
We encouraged the purchasers of each skincare package to write a thank you message to be included for the recipient. While I realize we could have just included a generic thank you message, we wanted these gifts to feel personal. It was absolutely the best decision of the entire project. As the thank you messages came in, I could not help but be overwhelmed with emotion as I wrote each one of them out on paper. It was so beautiful to read the unique heart-felt gratitude that each one of these purchasers was trying to convey. There were simple assurances of "I'm with you" from nurses in other states. There were hope-filled blessings from local citizens. And there were experiences of deep rooted pain and fear that were eased by others in similar uniforms. Encouragement, appreciation and kindness overwhelmed each note. It was impossible for these gifts not to make a positive impact in someone's life. I was so happy to be a part of this mission.
Fast forward to a few weeks later. We had successfully met our goal, made the delivery and our family was in the chaotic whirlwind of relocating our home and business. Surrounded by boxes and to-do lists, we received a message from Rachel.
"Thank you so very much for your thoughtful and beautiful gifts! The staff were so touched by the lovely heartfelt and personal messages from your friends and are delighted with the oils...."
Later on that week she stopped by bearing gifts to wish us well on our move and express her appreciation for all that had been done for her team. She assured us that the mission was a resounding success, and it had generated new life in her work place. Our hearts were absolutely full. Rachel's kind gesture in sending us off seemed to be a fitting completion of a very meaningful string of events. We had gained so much more than we had expected or hoped for by just seeking an opportunity to help a hurting community.
My hope in sharing this story is to provide assurance to anyone out there who may wondering: "Can I possibly make a difference in this crazy, shook up world?" This entire experience proved to us that without a doubt- yes, you can. Every act of kindness, big or small, spreads further than we will ever know. From just being a friendly neighbor, to sending a thank you note, or delivering a cart full of gifts to a hospital- it matters. So when the world seems very dark, trust that you have the ability to spread some light.
Thank you to all of the wonderful people who donated to the Lifting Hearts & Healing Hands campaign. We could not have completed this mission without you. And thank you again to all of the brave men & women in the medical community who have served their communities, now and always. We salute Beautiful, Healthy You.