Sidewalk Ghosts / Fragile As Flowers & An Important Challenge

A CHALLENGE—In authoring today’s story, and in gratitude to Shabbir and his family, I invite you to take a short break from whatever you are doing. To reach out to someone important to you by simply letting them know you care about them and just how important they are to you.

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It was Sunday afternoon, my day for spiritual worship and family time. A day I’m sure many of us covet as one dedicated to refilling our wells. At day ten of my one-year commitment, Sunday was becoming the hardest day to get my butt moving. But there were two things I learned from my father that moved me forward: First, “There is only one way to do things. In whatever you do, be certain to do it right, and finish it.” And secondly, as many Brits would state, “Keep a stiff upper lip.”

So with full commitment to see 365 to the end, a smile on my face, and a very supportive daughter in hand, I grabbed my gear for a Sunday stroll around the neighborhood.

We walked for a few blocks, noting shops unfamiliar to us as well as a few we had frequented from time to time. As we browsed, looking through locked storefront after storefront, most closed for Sunday rest, I realized 365 was changing my perspective of how I looked at the rows of small businesses. Being a small business owner myself, and knowing how important it is to retain a customer base, I’ve always done my best to regularly patronize my fellow entrepreneur. But the new feeling was deeper than that. Something was more soulful as it glowed in my mind and heart.

I paused for reflection; a different type of empathy was grabbing hold of me. My desire to connect at a deeper level to these neighborhood co-business owners was growing much greater. It had only been nine day’s of meeting strangers and my perspective of the world around me was changing, and it was for the better.

We passed the late, Canoga Camera – closed, (they had the best ink price in town. I’m sad recession put them out of business). Caveretti’s (old-school Italian deli) – open (of course, it’s a restaurant). The Boxing Gym – closed. We past five or six other locked stores and then prepared to look through yet another unlit window, Canoga Park Florist, and with one customer entering just behind us, it was open for business.

Now for as long as I’ve lived in my house, nine years at the time, never had that store been open on a Sunday. So, my curiosity took hold and through the door my daughter and I entered.

Quickly, shop owner Shabbir, who pausing from his busy work, looked away from reviewing his on-line orders to greet us. The time was 4:45ish, store was closing at 5:00pm. Even with that he was relaxed and in no rush as I explained the project. Without hesitation he bought in, graciously giving me almost an hour, (way past closing time), to get to know him, and he I.

Shabbir was a very honorable and kind man, impressed me as he gave my eigh-year-old daughter a stuffed toy. He did not have to do that, especially as I was taking his personal time to stay late after store hours.

I could write a book about our chat, but for the sake of keeping focused on not authoring an excessively wordy blog entry, I’ll keep it short— there are so many more stories to come.

That said, let me give you the short rundown of our conversation and some things I did not know:

• Shabbir loves working with all kinds of different people: bad day pick-me-up, to hospital gifts, anniversaries to weddings, birthdays to graduations, Mothers Day to Valentines Day—all have their respective flowers. But to Shabbir it’s more than just pre-arranged product, it’s pride in knowing exactly what flowers to choose for every customer he meets.
• Gladiolas, Lilies, and Tulips. Until now I thought only Roses were the most beautiful flower for arrangements.
• Yelp really does work.
• He loves being a florist and sees doing nothing other than that for the rest of his life.
• His philosophies: Knowing your customer’s heart makes you a better business person.
• Whatever you promote – you deliver.
• His dream, to pilot a plane—life is just too busy right now.

Now, as I re-publish this story, Canoga Park Florist in no longer there. My understanding is that there was a divorce—something I about learned per the years I frequented the store after first meeting Shabbir. My heart heavy as I remember how proud Shabbir was of his business and family. I think of his daughters (he told me all about them as he showed me their photos), and of how it might have affected them. Perhaps it was the recession that shut them down, or maybe it was other reasons much too personal for me to know. But whatever it was, I am saddened every time I walk by what once was a family-run business. Still unoccupied, every time I think back to all the Valentine’s Day roses I purchased there, I am reminded of how fragile our relationships are and of the importance of taking time to recognize and love our family to the fullest.

Talk tomorrow my good friends,

Richard

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