I got a letter a few days ago from Happy Valley, PA. Here’s what it said, in part:
I am writing to share information regarding a wonderful construction/energy company that was established in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. This company was greatly inspired by the model outlined in your book, Companies We Keep, and has had a remarkable impact on many peoples lives. It is my personal opinion that this Pennsylvania company can be viewed as a descendant of your South Mountain Company.
This company is known as Envinity. Please have a look at their site.
Envinity began in 2005 with a vision from a very highly respected community member and, my personal partner, Shaun Pardi. Shaun wished to create a design/build company which would be deeply rooted in environmentally responsible building methods and standards — very similar to the values of the South Mountain Company. Others very quickly became interested in Shaun’s vision and soon, the employee-owned company formed. Envinity began with just a few dedicated owners, a trusting client and, like magic, attracted some of the most amazing and skilled carpenters in Pennsylvania! Envinity slowly added owners and employees to their team and expanded to include its equally valuable energy division.
The company prospered. They made mistakes along the way, but they were always able to turn these experiences into their own kind of wealth. The road has not always been smooth but this dedicated team continued to work together to welcome contracts and leave clients extremely satisfied. Before anyone realized it, a beautiful community had formed — a community of not only company owners and employees, but also of devoted clients. They are found mingling together at each other’s homes, traveling, playing on the Envinity softball team and celebrating life’s joys and sorrows together. It is truly beautiful to see how this community has woven itself together from the common threads of sustainable values!
Envinity’s story does not end here, however. Today the company is experiencing the effects of the staggering economy, likely similar to what you experienced in 2008. A few layoffs have been made and the decisions that Shaun has been faced with have not been easy. I do the best that I can to support him, but of course I am not able to give him the mentoring that he really deserves. He needs someone who can understand what he is facing, someone who has experienced the highs and lows of the business.
With Christmas arriving I have been considering that perhaps you would be willing to talk with him.
John, I am wondering if it would be possible for you to call Shaun on Christmas day to wish him a Merry Christmas, briefly tell him something positive that you saw on the Envinity web site and ask to schedule time to talk. Your short call would be a wonderful gift to our entire family, and the highlight of our day!
I do understand that you have a family of your own and would deeply respect you feeling that this idea would not fit in.
Call me brave. Call me naive. I don’t know. But the reward that could come from this request would certainly be well worth it!
So that’s what the letter said. It said a lot of other stuff, too, but that was the gist of it. Not such happy times in Happy Valley. And as for Katrina, maybe a little brave, hardly naive, and certainly soulful.
Yesterday, as you may know, was Christmas! I called Shaun. He picked up the phone and I said, “Hey Shaun, it’s John Abrams and I’m just calling to wish you a Merry Christmas.”
“John Abrams, and I heard you’d fallen on some rough times and it sounds like you could use some words of encouragement to pump you up for the challenges ahead.”
“Wow,” he said, “John Abrams from Martha’s Vineyard? Did Katrina put you up to this?”
“Sure did. She’s to blame for me barging in on your Christmas day.”
“That’s really amazing,” he said, ” because just last Friday one of our guys took your book home to read over the week-end and here you are! It would be great to talk ‘cause you know some times you hit these peaks and all is well and steaming along and then you drop down into the toughs and you never know when you’re going to hit bottom.” For a while they were in high gear, keeping 28 people going and now they’re down to 20, and falling, and wondering where it stops.
“Hopefully you’re already at bottom and starting to climb out,” I offered (lamely), “but let’s set up a time that’s not Christmas when we could talk for awhile. I’ve got no special wisdom but I’ve experienced the highs and the lows and maybe if we rummage around a bit we can find something that would be helpful.”
So we agreed to talk next week. I’m looking forward to it.
He thanked me and said I really made his Christmas.
I hope so, because that was pretty easy, and it’s always nice to have an opportunity to check in on one of the thousands of stories happening everyday and everywhere, affecting peoples’ lives and livelihoods.
I hope you had a good Christmas too, and I hope 2013 will be a stellar year with no more tragedies having the word “Sandy” in them.
(I was wondering about the Sandy coincidence. Hurricane Sandy hits New York, not Pensacola, and suddenly Obama is talking about climate change for the first time in years. Sandy Hook happens in Newtown CT, not a small town in Kansas, and suddenly Obama is talking about gun control and mental health. New York is our nerve center and Newtown is our model for a safe and nurturing community. Quite the wake-up call. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time. Let’s hope that neither of these tragedies fades from memory and gets lost in Fiscal Cliffdom, and let’s hope and do what we can to be sure this is the year when Obama, and the U.S., begin to make real progress on both kinds of violence – to our environment and to each other.)
While I was exercising on the treadmill the other day I read in a Michael Connelly whodunit that “there are the knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns . . it’s our job to master the first two and always be prepared for the third.” Seems like a reasonable aspiration for the year ahead.
Thanks, John. What a Christmas story.
Happy New Year.
Thought you would enjoy this video from my friend Curtis Buchanan, a chairmaker in Tennessee.
A dose of hope in the dark time of year.
Since my retreat from the front lines of renewable energy in the Berkshires a year ago, the shopwork vessel has righted itself enough that when I was asked to join a county-wide group being convened by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to “create a regional energy plan” I could, and did, say yes. I’m even excited at the prospect–which might be to beat my head against a bureaucratic wall, or to get good things done, but at least now I can find out for myself.
Most challenging recent read: David Owen, The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse. I read it as a kind of Buddhist text, on the importance of clear mind and right work, despite our crazy human world of suffering. The one hopeful word he allows in that title is “can,” but it’s enough to grab onto. (If you ask me, the canon is Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe; her article a few years ago in the New Yorker titled Island in the Wind; and David Owen, The Conundrum. Takes a weekend by the fire, no more.)
You should know that you and South Mountain remain a constant inspiration to me.
Happy New Year!
Thanks Peter. Happy New Year to you, too, and thank you for that splendid video that shows how much can come from so little.
I would add to your canon The Great Disruption, by Paul Gilding.
Thanks for your kind words, Pia. I’ll be talking to Shaun early next week and I’ll pass your words along to him. Happy New Year.