The Sheaf Dreamer
Mr. Joseph Rosenthal
“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Some people are in your life forever and they teach you nothing; they drain your spirit and steal your joy, like the beating sun and draining humidity of a hot Alabama day. Others are in your life for a very short time and give you priceless puzzle pieces of life you have sought for years. Mr. Joseph Rosenthal was one of those “others.” How strange and exciting these people are upon first introduction. You have no idea of nor are you prepared for the supernatural impact they will have on you, and you will be forever changed. I certainly was.
The traffic was amazingly well-behaved this morning, so I arrived to work fifteen minutes early. The Bradford Pear trees are a spectacular display in the South and today they were in full bloom. They completely lined the long entry drive into the community, making it feel as if you were headed to a beautiful castle. The state-of-the-art community was buzzing with activity as I made my way to my desk. The aroma of fresh coffee blanketed the entire place while Hotel California played over the speakers. After settling in, I made my way downstairs to the bistro for a bacon biscuit. I passed Mr. Green heading out for his three-mile morning run, Ms. Erickson off to her weekly tennis match, and Ms. Loyalta leaving to teach her dance class at the Dance Emporium downtown. The games were just about to begin at the Bridge tables as the players made their way to their seats, finishing their last bite of Swiss pastry. An associate was tidying up the pool in preparation for the 10 a.m. swim class as one of our residents pruned the flowers just outside her garden apartment. Green Living Retirement Community (Independent Senior Living) was a luxury retirement community of 260 apartments located in the deep South. It was designed to provide freedom from all the worry of basic living and opportunity for freedom, fun and creativity. It was one of the few places that had upgraded and rebranded to meet the demanding needs of the first younger retirees of the Baby Boom Generation, the Flower Children, the Hippies, the Woodstock crowd, the ones who said, “Never trust anyone over thirty.” Yes, we were the ones who drove psychedelic Bugs, buses and vans, the ones who smoked pot and tried LSD. We lived through the KKK, the “colored” and “white” drinking fountains in the South, the race riots in Selma, the assassinations of the Kennedys and King, the Viet-nam War and Bear Bryant coming to T-Town. We Boomers are the hippies turned businessmen and women, who have used our new-found freedom to carry the staunch, standardized, and industrialized business world to a whole new level. We are the movers and shakers. No, our generation is not interested in Big Band Music, Scrabble or Bingo. We are interested in fitness and wellness centers, computers, gourmet dining, hiking trails, biking trails, tennis courts and special interest clubs.
As Marketing Director here at Green Living, I had a full schedule with two staff meetings, one mid-afternoon St. Patrick’s Day celebration and three tours of the community. I settled in, checked email and planned the order of my day. Mr. Joseph Rosenthal, the third of the three tours, was set for two-o’clock. Mr. Rosenthal had been one of my Top Ten new friends for six months now. We had enjoyed many conversations, some quite pleasantly spirited. Event celebrations at Green Living were the upside of life; festive, fun and energetic, so I had planned to take him up to the event on the second floor after our visit.
After lunch in the large dining room with some of my favorite residents, I prepared for my two-o’clock appointment. Mr. Rosenthal arrived right on time. He carried a quiet confidence that was solid…not arrogant confidence. The kind that can only be had by hitting bottom, maybe several times, and fighting with great determination to rise back to the top. The kind of confidence that comes with knowing who you are, where you are going and what you want out of life. Mr. Rosenthal was a strong soul, medium height, medium build with a sharp mind and gentle personality. Life in the South had been good for him.
As an entrepreneur, his life had been amazing. He had built five businesses, two of which had failed miserably, and three had been wildly successful. He was the author of ten books. Throughout the years of writing his other books, he had spent many years researching and writing about dreams…his passion. He had read almost every published book on dreams and was unsatisfied that anyone had fully understood the true meaning and impact of dreams on our lives. He believed dreams were a direct communication to us, giving us the tools to rid our lives of pain, and fill our lives with adventure and direction. Little did I know how this would impact my life. He would confirm my thoughts and leadings about this mysterious land we call dream world. His tenth book, which had just been published three months earlier, was the result of all those years of study about dreams. He had also spent the last five years in research and study on another book that he hoped would be published in about a year.
His wife had died suddenly of a heart attack five years earlier and he had finally reached a point where he was simply tired of living alone, dealing with the upkeep of a large home. He had researched retirement communities quite thoroughly and knew exactly what he wanted. Being only 62, he wanted a very upbeat, active community. He said he had even dreamt that our community would have the apartment that was just perfect for him. I assured him that life would be satisfying at our community and told him what a joy he would be to the other residents as well. No matter where life takes us, it’s important to feel we are all needed and loved. Truth be told, we probably needed him as much as he needed us. His character, knowledge and vision of life would be such a strong addition to our community life because this community was true community where genuine people cared about each other, intertwining their lives with love and support.
I had first met Mr. Rosenthal six months earlier by phone when he was researching communities. He expressed a desire to visit our community, both to tour and to attend a few events, before making his decision. His plan was to visit the three communities that he had narrowed his search to before making a decision. I had given him a list of dozens of questions he should ask while talking to other communities. His first visit to our community was in October, when the leaves were a vibrant canvas of color, and there was a pleasant nip in the air. I knew that this man had an absorbing story to tell but I had to be patient in getting to the telling.
Mr. Rosenthal was one of my Top Ten. Having been in marketing for over thirty years, I had been trained in many sales programs, but none of them had ever felt comfortable because the sales focus was on dialing for dollars rather than creating relationships; therefore, I developed my own marketing plan called Nurture Marketing. Being a strong relationship person, traditional sales schemes had not worked well for me (and I had been exposed to many). People have such a need to matter, feel important and make a difference. My plan allowed for all of those. In the sales world, it turned my stomach to see how a unique spirit and soul could be reduced to just another prospect, commission or bonus. When money is the bottom line, numbers will always be most important. When creating community is the bottom line, relationships will be most important, and, consequently, the money will always come. I had already proven that at Green Living. If genuine relationships are formed, everything else is gravy; the kind of southern milk gravy, with hot biscuits.