Every year from Thanksgiving until about January 6th, magic envelops the botanical wonder known as Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. Over 1,000 acres are adorned in a different way each year, following a theme. One year, you felt the flourishes of France, another year felt like silver dripped from every branch.
This year celebrated trees. I know… botanical gardens. Trees. Not a big stretch. And yet, it was again the fulfillment of so much artistry and attention to detail that whether it was the tree made of birdhouses along the trail to the Italian gardens or the tree made of books in the Conservatory, there was something for everyone.
Or so I thought.
We wandered through the gardens on Christmas weekend, marveled at the tree of books and the children’s trees in the conservatory whose branches are adorned with ornaments made by local school children. We exited the conservatory, and headed to the miniature trains. We’d walked a fair distance, so my friend and I took advantage of an open bench. A dad approached me, inquiring politely if it was okay for his son to take the seat beside me. “Certainly,” I replied, and off went Dad to get drinks, while his son sat down next to me, his brother on the adjoining bench, and Mom standing behind them both.
My new companion looked up at me cheerfully.
“Hi!” he said, his five-year old face beeming politely from beneath his hat complete with earflaps.
“What’s your name?” I asked with a smile.
“Pweston,” he said with great certainty.
“Nice to meet you, Preston. My name is Monica.”
He smiled at me.
“What’s your favorite thing you’ve seen so far tonight?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I’m not that impwessed.”
I think his Mom was sort of embarrassed by his response, because she quickly chimed in that it was their first visit to Longwood and she confirmed that they had not gotten to the Conservatory yet. I encouraged her to take the children into the children’s section where there were hands-on activities for the children and unique places for them to climb through and explore. Dad came back about then with water and they left, but I kept thinking about my new little friend.
The beauty of the gardens this year was indeed a bit more understated. And if as a child, you’re used to the flashiness that shows up so many places at Christmas, Longwood might feel a bit… unimpwessive. But for me, every turn had nuances, tiny details, garlands painstakingly constructed of greenery and folded paper, Christmas trees that floated ten to thirty feet above an indoor pool, the massive and majestic Sycamore at the entrance transformed with lights into more of a Weeping Willow, and on and on.
Yet, Preston’s impressions were totally valid.
His response also got me to thinking. Do we ever totally get wrapped up in our own perspective and forget to ask someone else how they feel, what they see? Do we forget that in business? Do we head off on a tangent in marketing or in negotiations or in communications with our clients and forget to get their perspective?
As I head into the New Year, I’m going to keep my little friend in my thoughts so that I listen and consider well the person who receives the messages I send. May the work we do for our clients in 2019 be truly… impwessive! (Thanks, Preston.)