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They’re Just Things

Cherishing the Truly Important

‘Karen and Jay share thoughts on what is truly important.’

In the rush of the day to day, it’s often easy to forget a valuable truth. We all know it deep down, but the fact is that the most valuable things in life aren’t ‘things.’ They are our relationships, our family, our health, our faith, our freedom, and our devotion to others. A fire, a storm or other kinds of natural disasters can destroy our homes, wipe out all our material possessions, and no doubt, disrupt our lives. But in the end, ‘things’ can always be replaced. It’s in those times, when all our ‘things’ are being lost that we become fully aware of what truly gives our lives purpose and meaning.

As Americans, we know and hold dear certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. For us, these values are much more precious than ‘things.’ From the founding of the United States, our history has been marked with moments that have defined who we are as a people and that have reinforced our core values to the world. From the Civil War to the civil rights movement and more recently events like 9/11 and the pandemic, the common thread throughout is a uniquely American resiliency. In moments of uncertainty or when disaster strikes, we’ve always shown that we’re willing to answer the call.

And while these moments can disrupt our lives and even destroy some of the material things we love, what’s always paramount is our commitment to our family, our friends, and our communities. As Dr. Joseph Garbely, MD, a professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at Temple University states, "We're programmed innately to persevere. It is our innate survival instinct; that beacon that unconsciously drives us all. We want to leave our mark, leave our footprint on this earth. So, we keep marching on."

In the face of 9/11, what initially was shock, sadness, and anger felt by all Americans at the loss of the life and property transitioned into a rallying cry that united Americans of varied creeds and colors behind our ideals. Not only that, but it was also a formative moment that prepared us for some other difficult moments that would lie ahead like Hurricane Katrina and the financial crisis. There should be something said about faith here too as a motivator. When we put aside our differences and band together to help support one another in times of loss or tragedy, we’re sending a powerful message of hope that brighter days lie ahead or that we are not alone in these moments. It’s reminiscent of the phrase ‘love thy neighbor.’ In moments where there is trauma or suffering, it can weigh heavily on entire communities. That’s why when a tornado strikes a small town in Kansas, or a fire takes down a family summer home in Maine, how we respond, and support others is a statement about our sentiments towards our fellow man.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, a group of New Yorkers who had helped with the clean-up at the World Trade Center sprang into action to volunteer with materials and manpower to help get the city back on its feet. With the recent trauma of 9/11 still very real, the experience ultimately led this group of firefighters, EMT’s, construction workers, and more to connect with the pain their fellow Americans were feeling and lend a hand just as they’d gotten from others across the country.

How we treat each other, even strangers, in times of need, is an important indicator of our convictions and demonstration of our values. This is especially true as we go into this weekend to celebrate Memorial Day, to honor the lives of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Honoring these heroes, just as we support those in need during difficult times, is intrinsically American. Just as it is divinely human to transcend our attachment to ‘things’ and value what truly matters.

Portsmouth’s Brick – and How It All Happened...

Those picturesque brick buildings that line the downtown streets of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. What a beautiful, historic look and feel. Every wonder how it got that way? Well, it’s a very curious story – very much about the protection and preservation of lives and ‘things.’

As backdrop, over the past several centuries, a handful of notable fires in cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta, are known for their devastation both in terms of loss of life as well as buildings and homes. However, these fires led the remaining people to rebuild their cities from the ground up in new and different ways to prevent such tragedies from reoccurring.

Not surprisingly, as it turns out, New Hampshire was not immune from these types of deadly disasters, especially in Portsmouth. The city suffered major fires not once but three times. The first was the day after Christmas in 1802. Most of the downtown buildings were wooden at the time, and after the first of them caught fire, it quickly spread destroying over 114 buildings in total, leaving only the North Church and the Old State House. There was no fire department, so the citizens of the town and surrounding towns pitched in to put it out with buckets. Also, there was no such thing at the time as fire insurance, so Congress enacted its first Devastation Relief Act to help rebuild Portsmouth. As a result of the fire, the NH Fire and Marine Insurance Co. was founded.

Not too much longer after that, a second fire caused by poor ventilation on Christmas Eve, in 1807, wiped out part of the city along the river, which was, and still is, an essential part of the city's shipping industry.

And, if that was not enough, in the middle of the War of 1812, occurred the last and most devastating of the major fires. Supposedly, this fire was caused by an angry servant that set fire to a barn near Church Street three days before Christmas in 1813. The fire quickly swept through the riverfront and made its way to the downtown. Once again demolishing the businesses on Market Street and burning so hot and fierce that it could be seen as far away in Salem, Massachusetts. The bill for the fire was so large that it bankrupted the New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company.

New Hampshire legislators quickly developed and passed legislation known as the Bricks Act, which stated that any building in the downtown area of Portsmouth over 12 feet in height must be made of bricks. So, when you go through Portsmouth today, you can see that most of the buildings are made of bricks, which makes the downtown not only beautiful but much safer. And a special thanks to those industrious people of the city who never gave up and because of their efforts we can savor the fruits while enjoying many of the delightful downtown restaurants and shops.

The Red Cross in New Hampshire – When Disaster Strikes

When disaster strikes, the Red Cross is there. The American Red Cross is ready to provide all those services that go so very far beyond ‘things’ – to address and protect that which is most precious - our health, our safety, and our lives. Each year, ARC responds to more than 60,000 disasters, including house or apartment fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous spills, transportation accidents, explosions, and other natural and man-made disasters.

Founded nationally by nurse, Clara Barton, in 1881, the Red Cross has been a vital part of New Hampshire's community for over 150 years. The New Hampshire chapter was one of the first to be established, and it has been providing disaster relief, blood donation services, and other humanitarian assistance ever since.

In fact, in the most troubling times, when it seems that all our ‘things’ are lost, the Red Cross steps in to provide those humanitarian services that save lives and enable us to go forward and recover. Here in the Granite State, the Red Cross has played a major role in responding to many of New Hampshire's most devastating disasters over the years, including most famously, the Hurricane of 1938.

In addition to disaster relief, the Red Cross also provides a variety of other services in New Hampshire such as blood drives and medical services. Importantly, the Red Cross plays a vital role in ensuring an adequate blood supply throughout the state for hospitals and medical facilities in New Hampshire. Additionally, the Red Cross offers health and safety training courses, including CPR and first aid, to equip individuals with life-saving skills while also assisting military members, veterans, and their families through various programs. They provide emergency communication services to connect families during deployment, offer financial assistance, and provide support to veterans transitioning back to civilian life.

So, while we may all hope that we never find ourselves in need of their services, we are all thankful for the selfless support that this terrific American organization provides in the times of our greatest need.

Positive Profile of the Week - Josh Solloway

This week we are delighted to highlight a hard-working and truly caring member of our New Hampshire community – Josh Sollaway. Josh specializes in helping those who have had damage to their home. From a fire to burst pipes, Josh Holloway, COO of Soil Away Restoration, helps families see light at the end of the tunnel while living through some of their worst experiences.

A few years back, a friend of Karen and myself experienced a difficult, actually miserable, situation in the structure of his house. Water and mold damage destroyed more than half his home. For four months, he and his family were dislocated, calling a local hotel home for more that 120 days. The rebuild was easy once they were able to start; however, they were only able to do so with the help of Josh and his home restoration company, Soil Away.

My friend had to deal with so many issues from the home damage, but he says that what turned this into a positive experience was due in large part to the support from Josh and the team at Soil Away. They found the cause, took action, and provided a service that helped my friend get back into their home.

A family-owned company founded by Josh’s father, Soil Away provides services to get a home or business back to pre-disaster conditions. But Josh and his team do far more than work on buildings, they work on people. They instill a positivity in their clients, letting them know that they care and that in the end all will be well. They do their work in a way that is calm, steady, and supportive to their clients. And I think Josh said it best in his Union Leader interview when he was profiled as one of our ‘40 under 40’ leaders in New Hampshire earlier this year. He instills confidence in affirming “I believe tomorrow will be better than today.”

Beyond Josh's commitment to providing a top notch service to his clients, his dedication to helping those in the community plays a major part in his life. He is a longtime leader of the New Hampshire Make-A-Wish organization, and in 2021 during the pandemic Josh did something truly amazing. A family in Bedford had lost their home to a fire. The daughter of that family was to perform in a dance recital. Due to the nature of the fire her costumes were badly damaged. There wasn’t enough time to replace them, so Josh sprang into action and used what resources he had at his ready to repair and restore the young lady’s costumes. A moving gesture from a person with a huge heart.

If I had to give Josh a symbol to live by, I would give him the Phoenix. He lives to solve problems and knows the days ahead will be better than the ones past. Our deep thanks to Josh, who is consistently helping and giving hope to those in their time of need. Thank you, Josh, for all you do!

Positive Quotes of the Week: They’re Only Things

The most important things in life are the connections you make with others." - Tom Ford Attribution: Tom Ford, American fashion designer and film director. "The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in." - Morrie Schwartz Attribution: Morrie Schwartz, a professor and central figure in the book "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom. "The things you own end up owning you." - Tyler Durden (Chuck Palahniuk) Attribution: Tyler Durden, a character in the novel "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk. "The things you own don't define you. They are just things." - Joel Osteen Attribution: Joel Osteen, American televangelist and author. "You can't take it with you when you go." - Proverb Attribution: This quote is often attributed to the proverbial wisdom of various cultures and does not have a specific author. "The best things in life aren't things." - Art Buchwald Attribution: Art Buchwald, American humorist and columnist. "The value of a thing is not what you pay for it, but the love and attention you give to it." - John Ruskin Attribution: John Ruskin, English art critic and social thinker. "The most important things in life aren't things." - Anthony J. D'Angelo Attribution: Anthony J. D'Angelo, American author and speaker. "Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny." - Mahatma Gandhi Attribution: Mahatma Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader. "You can't buy happiness, but you can buy experiences that create happiness." - Anonymous Attribution: Anonymous

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