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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Tree at a Time

I have an uncle who was a Roman Catholic missionary priest. Eventually, he left the priesthood, entering academia and consulting work. On one occasion, he asked me if I was into politics and was disappointed when I told him no. He said that at that point in his life going forward, he no longer wanted to help individuals one by one, rather to help people en masse via sweeping political change. This seemed to be a noble aspiration but too disconnected to me. As a self-directed entrepreneur, I never had the stomach for long political process or decision by committee. So, be it perhaps ineffectual from a global perspective, my efforts to make a difference in the world are limited to infrequent isolated acts of charity.

One of the perks of owning a business, particularly a manufacturing company, is the ability to bring tremendous resources to a small problem and fix it easily. I have a factory with a machine shop and a plethora of power and hand tools. Such a facility in Manhattan is now virtually nonexistent.

Additionally, most people in New York City have a much more limited range of tools and no basement shops or garages. Hence, although some old timers may have handwork experience, most New Yorkers have little or no working knowledge of tools, in depth experience of how to repair things or any skills in electrical, plumbing, metalsmithing, or carpentry work.

Performing easy, quick procedures such as cutting something on a table saw, drilling a hole using a drill press, or machining on a lathe are like magical blessings for most New Yorkers. I love doing these things - typically these small acts are uber-appreciated and remembered for years. My "return on investment" is so huge that it is a stretch to even see the small favors as "generous."

Recently, a customer who knew we had a factory workshop asked if we could do a simple repair on a hand bag with an absurdly designed shoulder strap (unbelievably, the chain was only slipped under the flap, so the bag fell whenever opened). The solution was simple, however, one would need grommets, hole cutters, setting tools, and other hand tools to disassemble and reassemble the linked chain. The repair was made in a few minutes, and Déa Million was elated and profusely thankful. Ebullient, effusive, and perky, there was no better victim for a small charitable act. As repayment, she agreed to this story.

This morning, I perused Déa's website and learned many things about this woman, who is a graphic designer, originally from Minneapolis. Her interests and skills are quite eclectic - at one time, Déa worked as a project manager for computer-based training systems for a US Air Force helicopter pilot training system. As I continued to peruse her website, the story you are reading just unfolded without planning as a web of interconnected ideas, such as those on the mind-numbing documentary TV show Connections with James Burke.

My attention turned to her interest in reforestation with the organization Community Carbon Trees Costa Rica. As I scanned that organization's website, I saw that this was a grassroots effort, and the wheels began turning in my mind, seeing the obvious analogy between their and my approach at making a difference. An idea for the perfect story title just popped into my mind: One Tree at a Time.

I continued to scroll the main page, and my eyes fell on the most astounding coincidence. Pseudo-science or not, if there ever was a case for Morphic Resonance, this was it. The metaphor for my way of making a difference and the story title phrase I had thought of seconds before just appeared like magic and leapt off their webpage:

We believe that ONE by ONE, with your generous sponsorship and our commitment, together we can grow huge new expanses of forest on deforested equatorial land owned by local Costa Rican people, One Tree at a Time.

Note to Déa: Thanks a million, Déa, for your cooperation and the opportunity to use your image. I hope you enjoy reading this remarkable tale as much as I did writing it. Thanks for letting me repair your bag :)

Related Post: The Book With the Hole In It, Part 2

3 comments:

Thérèse said...

Incredible Lady!

The Kid said...

very interesting thought process. I have been thinking of entrepreneurship in this way, but you put it in the right words :)

Honolulu Photo of the Day said...

interesting post and wonderful photograph!
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