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The Fire

On the morning of January 23rd, a fire broke out at one of my businesses, Smiley’s Antique Mall, at Micanopy, FL. Fire destroyed approximately half of the 20,000 square foot building and the other half suffered extensive smoke, heat and water damage. Luckily, the fire happened three hours before the mall was scheduled to open which meant no one was in the building nor anyone injured.

For sure, it’s been a draining few days. My thoughts have kept going to my employees and to the 200 antique dealers who had booth space and showcases in the mall. My heart goes out to them. Most all dealers have sought me out and expressed to me how much they enjoyed being a dealer at Smiley’s and how much they appreciated our fine staff that has served them and the public. That makes me proud. What my children and I, in the near future, will have to address (that’s going to be a real challenge) is: where does Smiley’s go from here? It’s a lot to think about and will take some time to sort out.

But, as in every disaster, you see those noble souls who come to help. It was reported that some 21 firefighters from Alachua County Fire Rescue and the Micanopy Fire Rescue responded. As I stood there in shock and dismay, I saw that the responders had everything in hand. I was impressed with their dedication, hard work and professionalism in the face of a catastrophic situation.

Then, there are our Mall employees who set up a makeshift office in my garage and soon called the dealers to let them know what happened. Fortunately, the fire and heat didn’t totally destroy our sales computer, and our wonderful manager was able to extract the month’s sales information and put it on a new computer so we could close out January’s accounting. Needless to say, our personnel were walking around in their own state of shock but moving forward with precision. They handled this adversity in a most admirable manner which was impressive and for which, I am most grateful.

And, of course, there’s my two wonderful children, my daughter, Ashley, and my son, Ben, Jr., both who are partners of mine in the Mall and live in Jacksonville with their families. They immediately came down to help coordinate the security and safety the Mall so we could to help make it safer for dealers to enter, where they could sift through what remained of their merchandise. My nephews, Jeffrey and Brad also have been very helpful. I am very fortunate to have them in my life.

And, then there are the multitude of friends who have called, stopped by, sent texts and emails and others who brought donuts and coffee for the staff and dealers. Their kindness has touched my heart and has helped get me through the these difficult last few days. The old saying “when you face a crisis, you know who your true friends are,” brought a lot of meaning to me.

As this unfolds, I kept reminding myself of the Waldo way to navigate a crisis:

  1. Keep moving – Sitting around fretting only makes the situation worse.

  2. Take care of others – Nothing takes your mind off your own problems more than helping someone else through theirs.

  3. Take care of yourself (a challenging one for me) – Don’t kill yourself trying to fix everything all at once. If you let anxiety and stress overtake you, you may very well end up with another crisis!

  4. Be grateful for the good things – Cherish the blessings that took place during the crisis. I constantly reflect on the fact that no one was hurt in the fire – and I am extremely grateful.

  5. Focus on the things that are right in your life, not your troubles – Pause and reflect on the blessings in your life and thank God for them.

To M.D. Babcock said, “Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings by counting your troubles.” Especially during these last number of days, those words have helped me to focus in on the countless blessings in my life….. my children and their spouses, my four grandchildren, my siblings and their families, countless friends, our employees, our dealers and the list goes on……..indeed, I have been, and continue to be, tremendously blessed! God is Good!

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