In 2005, after exploring most of the North Carolina and Georgia mountains Lori and I, like many Floridians, decided to buy a second home in Northern Georgia. The place we found had everything on our list… a creek, a mountain view, a pond, exotic cherry, pear, and apple trees (exotic to a native Floridian) and it was near a nice little town with restaurants, a hospital and all the other things you would want close… but not too close. It was nestled in the quiet beauty of the mountains. Well…beautiful in the summer and fall. In the winter it is a little frightening.
When we first saw the property it was winter and since most of the trees are broadleaf in the region, the landscape was absolutely grim. Everything looked dead and every abandoned car, old tractor, lawn mower and piece of junk that had been lost over the years was visible. I was not thrilled. It was only after I saw the pictures of the property taken during the other eight months of the year that Lori convinced me that we wouldn’t succumb to depression and head back to Florida after only a few hours.
So we closed on the property on Good Friday and began setting up our cabin as our place to relax and get away from it all. We needed basically everything, so of course the first thing Sunday morning… we went straight to the Home Depot, two towns over in Blairsville.
A thousand dollars later we were coming out with our three carts full of “house stuff,” when Lori spotted a handwritten note stuck on the windshield of our well-marked Nelson Marine Construction pick-up truck. Lori, who had up to this moment been treasuring the anonymity of the mountains, read the note out loud. “Ben Nelson… is that you?” Her hands fell down to her sides and she looked straight up. “Oh come on! You’ve got to be kidding! People even know you up here?” She handed me the note. It was from some really good friends of mine who had moved away from Bonita Springs decades ago. I had no idea where they had moved to and I hadn’t heard from them since, so I was pretty surprised. The note said to meet them in the garden center and as we walked in the door, like magic… after twenty years, there they were! We hugged and laughed at how unlikely and serendipitous it was for us to have bought a place twenty five minutes from where they had moved to so long ago and that we had somehow managed to find each other on our first day there, on Easter Sunday in the Home Depot. But that was just the beginning.
“So where did you buy at?” asked Jay as we all walked slowly out to the parking lot together. I motioned back over my shoulder. “A couple of towns over in Hiawassee.” Jay nodded. “Oh yeah, I know Hiawassee really well. Where in Hiawassee?” Our cabin was one of thousands that were out in the middle of nowhere, so I didn’t think there was much sense going into detail. “Oh, way out east of town off Scataway Road.” Jay nodded again. “Sure! I know Scataway really well. Where off Scataway?” Again I kind of dismissed the possibility that out of all the small dirt roads, he would know where ours was. “It’s a little place off Phillips Cove…” Jay interrupted. “Ohhhh… you bought the Rigden place!” Lori and I stopped and stared at Jay with our mouths open. “Wha…” I sputtered. “How could you possibly know that?” Jay grinned a big grin, took me by the shoulders and said “Because I’m your MAILMAN!” “WHOAAAAA!!!” We all said at once.
I still get chill bumps when I tell the story of how we reconnected with our good friends. And when I think about how many different seemingly unrelated, unconnected decisions had to align in order for this to happen it reminds me that every day, unbeknownst to us, seemingly small decisions constantly turn the course of our lives, our businesses and our communities.
It is indeed a small world, crafted by small acts. But they can lead to big wonderful surprises.