Hello! I am so excited to be writing today because we have something really neat to share: our new “Encounter at our Counter” series. One of my favorite parts of being a store owner is meeting some incredible people that walk through our doors. Of course, every one of them is incredible, but some are special surprises once we get to chatting. And yes, I’m a little chatty sometimes. I think it’s all of those years being stuck behind a desk in an office that have me like “Hi! Hello! How are you? Can I help you? Can I hold your baby? Hi. You’re so awesome” when people walk in our doors. I have learned to tone down my excitement so I don’t scare people for Pete’s sake.
You may recall the Maierles that came in last year because they saw their family business sign on Pinterest, which now hangs in our store. It’s stories like that that we’ll be sharing with you in this “Encounter at our Counter” series. Most of our customers are wonderful, local people that we’ve adopted as family, but sometimes someone approaches the counter and the conversation that ensues takes us by surprise, and that’s what this series will be all about, just like when the Maierles came to visit us.
A couple of weeks ago was another encounter similar to that. I remember it well. I was checking out a woman who was buying a lot of paint and asking a lot of questions and I could see a single woman hanging out to the side patiently waiting while I serviced the woman in front of me. I looked at her and said “I’ll be with you in a moment”. She replied “oh, don’t worry, I’m not in a hurry.” I quickly wrapped up the current transaction and she approached my counter. She placed one item on the counter and it was the same “Be the Change” Mantraband that I wear everyday. Of course, I showed her mine and we got to talking. I quickly noticed a very heavy accent that was not of the Midwest and asked her where she was from.
She told me her name was Charmaine, that she was born and raised in New Orleans and that she and her husband were passing through for her husband’s work conference and she thought she’d stop in. Her husband was in the coffee shop across the way, on a business call. We got to talking about New Orleans and she proceeded to tell me all about living through Hurricane Katrina. She shared about lives lost, properties damaged and souls forever changed. Her son was in the National Guard and he once told her “anything I tell you, just know it was worse than that.” I asked how they fared and she said “You don’t get over it. You just get through it.” They were able to evacuate to another state and stayed there from August until November (3 months away from home!?!?!). That’s how long it took to get things managed in New Orleans after the devastation. When they returned, their home had been in water up to the second floor. Their first floor couch was on the stairs (on the stairs!) and you could see the water line on the second level. They lost everything.
We talked for about a half an hour (no one was in the store and I think that was meant to be). She shared story after story with me and I ate it up. One of the most heart-wrenching parts of her tale was when she told me about returning to school. She was a teacher and schools were set up in trailers just so kids could return to some sense of normalcy and routine since the buildings were gone. She was put in charge of 1st grade and one of the mornings when some of the children were returning (they would trickle in day after day as news of the school opening reached neighborhoods), a little boy walked in with his mother and the little boy looked around the room and then turned to his mother and said “They didn’t all die.” How incredibly sad that that was their reality!
Now while a lot of the stories she shared, and we’ve all heard, were negative, she did tell me that her husband’s business partner moved away after Katrina and now her sons work with her husband. It’s been a blessing for all of them since the changeover. And the neighbors on either side of them took their insurance money and moved away (as was the case with a lot of homeowners in their area), so when they rebuilt, they bought one of the lots next to them and now have a larger, more spacious home and they’re happy.
As we concluded our chat, we hugged and connected as mothers, as women, as humans and it was wonderful.
I never would have had the pleasure of meeting this woman were it not for our store. How wonderful is that? It is honestly the biggest blessing of having our store is meeting so many great people!
Sharing the story today seemed appropriate because tomorrow marks the 10 year anniversary (August 29) of Hurricane Katrina. God bless all who suffered. I can’t even fathom what they went through, but I’m so grateful that many of them, like Charmaine, are still with us to share their stories of triumph over tragedy!
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