Saturday, October 20, 2018

A story about paying it forward & surprising someone you don't even know.

I promised yesterday on Facebook & Twitter I would offer up a story today that will make you smile, so here we go...

With my online business, A Web of Fine Music, I still endeavour to fill CD orders for customers on a very small scale, as the public demand for CDs is shrinking almost by the day.  But I still fill orders as they come in, even though I no longer advertise the business any more.  I simply rely on my Facebook business page (you should Like it if you have not already done so) and to a lesser extent, my website at to market the business.

Back in July I received an order for a couple of CDs I had to order in from a supplier I deal with in the United States.  I've used them many times over the years so I know they are a trustworthy organization.  However, they slipped up on an order this summer, and it wasn't mine.

In early August I received a small box with the CDs I ordered for my customer as has happened many times before.  However, an identical box bearing my address arrived the same day, from the same company's second-hand reseller arm.  I knew it must be a mistake as I opened it up and sure enough, inside were several used CDs along with a sales receipt made out to a gentleman in Poland.  Yet the box was addressed to me.

I correctly deduced they simply put the wrong mailing label on the box after correctly labelling mine, and off it went in the post.  So what to do?  I promptly emailed the company explaining the situation and the fact I was now in receipt of several CDs I don't need that were intended for a customer in Poland.

After a couple of days I received an email back telling me not to worry about it, just keep the CDs and no RA# (return authorization number) would be issued, as they would have to be returned at their expense from Canada to the U.S. and they clearly didn't want to absorb the expense.

So I thought about this for a couple of days, and finally decided if this guy in Poland is as enthusiastic about his music as I am about mine, he would rather have the CDs.  I knew the company would be writing to him and more than likely refunding his money as the CDs had gone missing.  But they had not gone missing; I had them right here.

I decided to try to pay it forward and make someone's day I likely will never meet.  I took the CDs and with my years of shipping experience placed them in a smaller package that would cost significantly less to ship and walked down to our main post office downtown.  I know the people there of course, having worked there myself briefly over a year ago.

They thought the idea was hilarious, but dutifully weighed the package and told me - at my request - the cheapest possible way to get them over to Poland.  It would cost about 14 bucks to ship the package via surface transportation, which is a fancy way of saying it would travel by boat across the ocean rather than by air.  I asked, in jest, if there was tracking on the package...uh, no, sorry.

Okay, so I know the guy in Poland doesn't know they are coming so that's not a problem; he'll be surprised whenever they do arrive.  Surface transportation from Canada to Poland would take about two months, I was told, and this week I started to think about that package and the fact it should be arriving any day now.  But how would I know without tracking unless he reached out and got in touch with me?

I included a note explaining the situation and enclosed my business card and didn't think anything more about it at the time.

So yesterday when I arrived home from work around noon I had a phone message awaiting me.  It was from a gentleman named Isaac Chombe of Ottawa, and he wanted to thank me for sending the CDs on to his father in Poland.  He emphasized he wanted to thank me personally, so please call him back at the number provided.

With great bemusement I did just that.  Turns out Isaac is a funny, well-spoken guy who got a message recently from his father who still lives in Poland telling him about this package that had just arrived.  I explained to Isaac my rationale for doing so and he agreed his father would rather have the CDs rather than the refund.

Turns out his father is quite a character.  He's a doctor who still practices, apparently, and his home in Poland is full of about 20,000 CDs of every description.  That makes my collection of several hundred seem tiny in comparison.  None of the CDs he had ordered were people I had ever heard of before, and trust me, I have known a lot of musicians from every walk of life over many years.  So I can only imagine how large and eclectic this guy's extensive collection really is.

We talked for about 20 minutes and he invited me to call him if I'm ever in Ottawa and we'll get together.  I'm sure if we do his father will no doubt come up in the conversation!

So there you go.  You just never know what the outcome will be when you pay something forward but my simple gesture made the day of not one or two people, but all three of us.  Isaac's father is thrilled to have the CDs he thought he would never see, and Isaac was happy to relay to me how happy is father was.  I was happy I made both of them happy!

I also told Isaac to relay this fact to his father back home and he assured me he would.  But before the conversation ended he related to me his father himself received a big order of 40 or 50 CDs he never actually ordered, that were destined for a customer in Japan!  I suggested if he looks into surface transportation it might be doable to make that person's day too.

Oh, and by the way.  Turns out surface transportation didn't take about two months as I was told.  Isaac said his father actually received them in August, so it couldn't have taken more than a couple of weeks or so.  Amazing.

Funny how life works sometimes, doesn't it?  I mean, I could have just tossed them out or put them in the basement and forgot about them, but I did what I felt was the honourable thing and made sure the errant order was shipped to the correct address.  I hoped I would hear how things worked out but didn't think I actually would.

Karma works, and this is proof.  So when you can, do something nice for someone you don't even know.  Just for the pleasure of doing it.  The rewards may be there or they may not.  But you'll have the reward of knowing you surprised someone else in some small way when they least expect it.

Have a great weekend!

October 20th, 2018.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Remembering Peter Partridge Sr.

Much has been written this weekend about the untimely passing of a local business and arts leader on Thursday morning, Peter Partridge Sr.  All of it richly deserved by a man and family committed to making St. Catharines a better place for all of us to live.

I can't aspire to offer tremendous insights into the numerous contributions Peter and his family have made to the city beyond being eternally grateful he accepted the position to become fundraising chair for the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, kicking off the campaign with a hefty donation of 1-million dollars from the family.  It is because of that commitment to the arts in St. Catharines the largest venue in our arts showplace downtown is named Partridge Hall in the family's honour.

But I can offer some insights from my personal contacts with Peter and his wife Janet, which go back to when I first moved here in 1981.  By then, Peter and his family had been here for about 17 years, already firmly entrenching themselves in the culture of our city, both professionally and socially.

Peter was vice-president and portfolio manager at RBC Dominion Securities for 48 years, working just steps away from our house downtown.  But only once did I meet him in his business environment, when I once delivered a CD he had ordered directly to his office one day.

Most times, he was away from the business world, doing what he did best in my estimation:  being a goodwill ambassador for the city he loved and making us all the better for his being here.  Rarely would you go to a Niagara Symphony or Chorus Niagara concert, for example, and Peter was not there.  If there was a bigger booster for the arts in St. Catharines, I don't know who it could possibly be.

I first met Peter and his wife shortly after I started my evening show at CKTB Radio in the big white house on Yates Street.  Peter and Janet were there most evenings as well, picking music for the classical music show he hosted on our sister station, then known as QR-FM.  I would often run into them in the library sifting through the maze of old albums for music for that evening's show and we would often talk about our shared love of classical music in particular and the arts in general.

While his show Invitation to Good Music was widely known at the time, I had little realization back then just how high his profile was in the local arts community.  When they retired from the show after some time, a new classical programme was hosted by a local teacher, the late Henry Goerzen for a time, before I finally assumed the position and renamed the show Classically Yours.  I had the honour of hosting that show on CKTB Radio for a period in the late 80s and again in the early 90s.

Most of my contact with Peter during later years was through my online music business, A Web of Fine Music, following several years at the bricks & mortar store Downtown Fine Music where I worked as a music consultant for many years.  Janet was a regular customer with both businesses, although it's been several years since I've seen her; the last time I was actually driving by her neighbourhood as she was out walking the dog one cold winter's day some years go.

About ten or so years ago I got a call from Peter inviting me to sell my CDs at a special organ concert to be held at St. Thomas Anglican Church on Ontario Street.  I believe the concert coincided with a local convention of church organists, which Peter would have been involved with due to his position as music director of the old St. Paul Street United Church (now Silver Spire Church) for many years.

His only stipulation was that I sell only organ discs, so I scoured the audio catalogues for anything I could get my hands on in time for the concert.  The concert turned out to be a great event, and yes, sales were very good that evening.  Were it not for the kind foresight of Peter, I never would have experienced either.

My last business related contact with Peter came a few seasons back when I was still distributing my online music newsletter of new releases, and featured an item I knew would get his attention.  I would often do that with regular customers, put something in the newsletter I knew they just couldn't resist.

Sure enough, I soon received a call from Peter.  The lure was a new box set of recordings by The Choir of King's College Cambridge, with most of the recordings featuring long-time conductor Sir David Willcocks.  Peter had a long-standing relationship with Sir David dating back to his time in England before coming to St. Catharines, when Peter studied at the Royal Academy of Music and eventually became the assistant to the organist at Westminster Abbey.  That's about the time Peter and David would have worked together, as he related to me when he ordered the box set.

When Sir David himself came to St. Catharines to guest-conduct Chorus Niagara at St. Thomas' Church in the early part of this century, you can bet Peter and Janet hosted him while in the Garden City.  I still recall that magnificent performance the choir gave with Sir David on the podium.

I had not seen Peter much in recent years, although I remember attending the ground-breaking ceremony for the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in the early fall of 2013, and he spoke eloquently about the need for the new venue to better serve the growing needs of the arts community in the city.  He was there from start to finish, doing a spectacular job along the way raising funds for the new venue.

In an odd twist of fate, my current job with Canada Post brought my final contacts with the Partridge household last winter when I filled in on the letter-carrier route in Old Glenridge on a couple of occasions between Christmas and New Years, and of course delivered to their home.  This time it was mail rather than CDs, of course.

My biggest regret is never having the chance to attend the Civic Christmas Carol Concert Peter conducted at St. Thomas Church every December for the past 27 years.  Every year I planned to be there and every year it seemed something came up and I didn't make it.  This year's concert will no doubt include a tribute to the man whose spirit and talent made the event one of the must-attend concerts of the Christmas season for so many in our city.

Peter was 76 and when you think about it, that is still far too early for anyone to pass away.  Everyone is in shock - including me, frankly - that he was taken from us far too son.  But his considerable legacy will live on in the many contributions he made to the community in so many ways.  That is what would please him most, I suspect.

So this Thanksgiving weekend, be sure to be thankful for blessings bestowed upon you and never take them for granted.  Our time on this earth can often be far too short, so be grateful for the time you have and all the good you can do too.

Take care and have a special Thanksgiving with those who matter most to you.

October 8th, 2018.