So my brother Ryan would have been 34 today.
Of all the birthdays that I’ve forgotten over the years, I’ve never forgotten his. No one has. No one! Because he reminded you of it for weeks prior. On a near daily basis. Nonchalant calls to ask how we were going to celebrate. Excited calls telling us what he wanted for his gift. Frantic calls to say he’d changed his mind about what gift he wanted! Calls asking “Whadda ya think Johnny’s going to get me?” Lots of calls.
So I couldn’t but remember this year, too. May 4th. His favorite day of the year. The day that was just for him. And now even though he’s gone, he’s very much present at the forefront of many of our minds.
In honor of his birthday, I thought I’d share five ways I see that Ryan’s legacy has affected the culture of our company.
ONE. HIS EXCITEMENT.
Daggonit. That kid oozed excitement. About everything! Though after a year working with my dad I’ve begun to question whether my dad got it from Ryan, or Ryan got it from my dad. Either way, excitement is Jim’s mo. I’ve said it a thousand times. Jim is often more amped up about a remodeling project than the clients themselves!
During Ryan’s life there were always struggles, trials, disappointments and tragedies. But there were also room for joy. Always. And for hope. And for excitement. Ryan was the epitome of struggle and joy wrapped into one. His excitement never abandoned him. Even when the waters were deep and stress was high. He kept that excitement about whatever was before him.
We try to keep that excitement around here, too. We’re excited about relationships. About projects. We’re as excited about your new floor plan as you are. I promise. Because living around Ryan for 33 years taught us that.
TWO. THAT EVERYONE DESERVES A HOME THEY LOVE AND ARE PROUD OF.
I know that a lot of people believe that remodeling is a luxury. And I suppose that in many ways it is. But what I learned from Ryan was the importance of a home, not a house.
Ryan had immense pride in the places he lived. Whether it was his parents’ basement or his Special Needs group home. A home to him was incredibly vital. A place where he was comfortable. A place where he could breathe. And when he was a kid, a place where he could crawl inside!
On another note, having ample hiding spots where as an adult he could shove banana peels and empty yogurt cups was vital, too. And spoons! Washing silverware is for the birds, he’d tell ya. Just stick it somewhere dark and have mom buy some more. For months after his death, my mom was still finding spoons in between seat cushions and behind furniture.
But all kidding aside, having a home where there are drawers to put things, storage, organization for your stack of mail. Somewhere for the shoes by the front door. Enough cabinets to put every last toaster, Keurig, microwave, etc out of sight so you can see your countertops! It’s true! They are under there. I promise! It may have been years since you’ve seen them. But there are countertops beneath the clutter.
Functionality is important. Because it’s stressful walking in to a mess. A mess that’s hard to be rid of when there’s no where for it to go.
We’ve learned that that goes for everyone. People need homes that work. Homes that make sense for their family and their lifestyle. Your home ought to be a place you love. A home should be conducive to its family. A gathering space large enough to…gather! A kitchen you don’t dread cooking in. A beautiful, comfortable common area where your family wants to be together. And yet enough private space where one can retreat and rest.
We’re not talking about bigger being better. We’re not even saying that neutral colors are better. Or particular floor plans. None of that. We’re saying that every family is different and yet every family deserves to have a home that feels like a home and works like a home.
We believe that we are more than “luxury providers.” We feel that at our company we help people create spaces that add value not just to their real estate property, but to their family life. And we saw with Ryan the pride he took in ownership. Ownership of anything. A pair of new Converse even! And we’ve taken that lesson and become passionate about helping others feel pride in their home ownership.
THREE. SAYING SORRY.
I said it in his eulogy and I’ve heard it said a million other times. That kid had humility. But not just any kind. The kind of humility that led him to say sorry. Ryan often screwed up. But he always said sorry.
Are we as a company there yet? Well, we sure as heck try. Remodeling comes with five hundred opportunities to make a mistake. Whether it’s a bad measurement by a centimeter. Or the wrong delivery date for the windows. Half our job seems to be spent crossing our t’s that we didn’t forget anything! And yet, it’s inevitable.
People make mistakes. But we want to be a people that owns up to them. That says we’re sorry. That acknowledges that remodeling is an incredibly stressful experience, and sometimes it’s our fault. We want to be a company forging a change in people’s impression of this industry. Move it from the shady category to the full-of-integrity category. And the ‘when we screw up, we admit it’ category.
FOUR. GRATEFUL FOR OUR JOBS.
It’s sort of this accepted sentiment that everyone dreads Monday. But not everyone feels that way. Ryan deeply longed for a job all his life. And try as he might, he just wasn’t equipped to hold one. He was, however, our honorary Assistant to the President here at Scovell Wolfe. And he did, however, clean the Jeter’s bathrooms like a champ as we scrambled to get the house in order last summer for an early move-in.
His innate desire to have a job reaffirmed the importance of work to me. It tells me that we were made for work. Through work we have the opportunity to experience accomplishment. There is a deep fulfillment there, and we are grateful that we are in a position to achieve things.
There’s nothing like wrapping up punch list and taking the lock box off the client’s door that final afternoon.
There’s nothing like getting the professional photographer’s pictures back of a project we long labored over.
There’s nothing like driving by to see a line of parked cars – a party inside one of our client’s home – as they’re proudly showing off their newly remodeled home. A project that granted us the opportunity to provide for our families. And grant us our own sense of accomplishment.
We are grateful for our jobs both within this workplace office and within the homes we do our projects. We know that not everyone gets to work. But we are thankful that we do.
FIVE. LIFE IS ABOUT LOVING PEOPLE.
When it’s all said and done – when the crown molding is installed and the stain on the hardwoods has dried – it’s really just about relationships. Helping people. Helping people create homes for their families. But really just helping people. Helping our employees love their families by giving them a paycheck. Giving them a job Monday through Friday where what they does matters.
Remodeling is stressful. We as remodelers break apart your home – that place where you rest, gather, and raise families – and turn it upside down before putting it back together. But in doing so, we become a temporary member of your family!
We get to know your rhythms, your worries, your passions. We hear about your daughter struggling in school. Your deadline at work. Your mother sick in the hospital. We hear how your son won his soccer game and what college he was accepted to! You show us the pictures of your grandkids and we even get to meet them as they stop by to see progress on the house.
Ultimately, we become as invested in you personally as we do your house. We begin caring as much for your marriage and your children as we do your new addition. Because we want to love your family through providing a space for them.
Ryan reminded us that there is always more going on than making tile selections and picking out paint colors. There are relationships that matter beneath the surface. And we can carry the burden of your remodel while you carry the burdens in your own life. We can do our job to the best of the ability to make things that much smoother for you. We try to have a bigger-picture approach to remodeling. To understand that while our day is consumed with thinking about houses, yours in not. That you have things going on behind the scenes – with health, with family, with jobs, etc.- and we try to be mindful of them and give grace.
So whether you’d met Ryan or this is the first you’re hearing of him, he was a huge part of our family and our company. Sometimes not in obvious ways. But always in important ways.
He is dearly, dearly missed. Painfully so. But we cherish the pictures and memories. And on days like today – his birthday – we try to focus on his legacy: ever generous, always joyful, inexplicably compassionate, and persistently loving.