a whole new time for reinvention

by Sharon Santoni

Recently, I heard a wonderful phrase.

It’s quite simple: NEVER WASTE A CRISIS.

Think about it. This pandemic — and all of its various fall-outs — have created a unique and international crisis situation. It’s certainly created a lot of suffering and stress, but maybe also the most extraordinary opportunity to think outside the box and make deep changes in our personal and collective lives.

For years on this blog, I’ve written about reinvention and why I think it is such a wonderful thing. I’ve always spoken from a very personal point of view, with my own tale, when, after having been a full-time mom for 20 years, I launched a blog and ended up with a multi-brand business.

I chose to reinvent myself, but today, with the pandemic affecting every corner of our planet, reinvention has become a new reality for many people who never went looking for it.

Rarely has creativity been so much at the forefront as during confinement. More time on our hands, the need to communicate beyond our limited daily circle and the awareness that creativity is good for us on so many levels. And most of all, the realisation that creativity can take on so many different identities.

But, of course, the pandemic has also meant that a lot of people have lost their jobs or seen their income drastically diminished. It’s particularly hard for the generation of those just out of school and looking for the first steps in an exciting career; many plans have been shelved, many hopes disappointed.

However, there is (nearly) always a way to find a silver lining in the greyest of clouds, and I wanted to give you a story that I have heard around here. Abou a village who decided not to waste a crisis.

In a nearby small and rather quiet village, the sudden arrival — or rather return home — of young people who lost their jobs has brought about some unexpected changes.

The village counts a population of under five hundred. There is a little school, a church, a couple of farms and a bakery. And that’s about it. Any shops are fifteen minutes by car, and, of course, there are no restaurants or cafés.

Traditionally, the kids raised here leave home as young adults to start work in Paris, Rouen or elsewhere in France. Consequently, the year-round population is either very young or much older. The pandemic-induced recession weighs heavy here, and the return of so many young people without work could have been a disaster.

But together the village put their heads together, got creative and found a way to make the most of this crisis.

sunrise in field

Two years ago, one of the oldest members of the village , André, passed and (most unusually) left his house to his neighbour, Jean.

André had no family, no specific ties, and he lived comfortably. Jean was a younger man with young children, and he and his family had always shown André kindness and kept him company. There were no strings attached to the inheritance.

Jean and his wife were surprised by the unexpected will. At first, they were excited and contemplated what to do with the property: they thought about selling it, renovating it, or even moving into it. But they had just renovated their own home, which they loved, and were not looking to start another big project.

While they were wondering what to do, the pandemic started to rage. Any ideas to sell were abandoned, and energy was concentrated on their jobs and the family’s health. Around this time, a dozen young people returned to live with their parents, waiting to know what the outcome of the crisis would be. Jean noticed them around the village, and he had an idea. He asked to meet with the village council and laid out his plan. When they heard it, the council members were surprised but agreed.

Today, one year on, André’s former home looks a little different. In fact, it is transformed. His garden — previously simple, with grass and a few trees — is now a thriving kitchen garden. The first floor of the house has been repurposed into a small store on one side and a tiny café/bistro on the other.

Here, there is a steady flow of activity, from youngsters tending the garden, to others selling in the store, to three more cooking and serving in the café. The prices are reasonable, and there is no lack of clients. The villagers are thrilled to be able to buy produce grown on their own territory, and they love to eat in the bistro, or even purchase meals to take home.

The youngsters who had lost their jobs now have new skill sets and a huge sense of achievement. And they will come out of this crisis stronger for it.

I was amazed to hear this story, and I think you might be, too.

I wonder, do you have any happy crisis tales to tell?

sunrise in field

60 comments

Dorene February 24, 2021 - 11:32 am

I’m so happy that this is the first thing I read this morning. What a heartwarming, inspiring story! Thank you!

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Kathy Raines February 24, 2021 - 3:03 pm

What an uplifting story!

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Adrienne February 26, 2021 - 4:07 pm

Such an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing this Sharon.

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Judith Lambert February 25, 2021 - 7:16 am

We were a newly retired couple in the spring of 2019 ,entering into a new phase of our lives. We sold our home of 25 years, put our belongings into storage and purchased a large trailer that we moved into on our son-in-law’s property. As we planned our next home, we hit some bumps in the road, both design wise and healthwise bringing us to the fall of 2019. We were hopeful of bringing our new home into fruition when the pandemic started, myself getting very ill, but prior to Covid testing. We were unsure of what we were going to do but knew, after two winters in these small quarters that we couldn’t do it another year!
We were very fortunate after my recovery, everything falling into place as we started our adventure of building our future home. I documented every step of the process as we watched my drawings forming into our dream cottage. With aEuropean flavour, a little French and a little Italian (after our visit there a few years ago) we were finally able to move in, November 29, 2020. Our pandemic experience could have been lonely and isolated, however, ended up being one of joy and daily we appreciate how much we love our new little home. As 2021 moves along, I continue with the design of our new little french garden –
And perhaps- writings of this experience
into a book —

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jeanette March 8, 2021 - 2:16 am

That sounds like the best possible experience in a time like this. Dreamy, in fact!

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Fran February 24, 2021 - 11:45 am

Wonderful

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Ginny Yount February 24, 2021 - 11:48 am

A “silver lining story” from far away in the seaside town in Washington! My daughter’s dream of a small shop after years in the corporate world took hold and has been welcomed by the whole town and spread far and wide. Beautiful heritage flowers, many grown on their farm, plus highly curated goods, “Morgan & Moss’ Field” is thriving in the middle of a pandemic. We all crave beauty and kindness.

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Mary Beth February 24, 2021 - 11:49 am

This is also the first thing I am reading this morning while the coffee is brewing. Generosity looks so good on people.

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Robin February 24, 2021 - 11:52 am

This is an inspiring project–the cup is always half full!

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Anneke Boks February 24, 2021 - 12:00 pm

What a fantastic story , and what a lovely man Andre must have been . ❤️

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Lydia February 24, 2021 - 12:21 pm

A lovely story Sharon – thank you

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MaryD February 24, 2021 - 12:28 pm

A beautiful story and a delight to read. Thank you for sharing.

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June February 24, 2021 - 12:49 pm

Merci beaucoup, Sharon!
This will add inspiration to a project we are undertaking in our community

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Vicky from Athens February 24, 2021 - 12:58 pm

A wonderful way to begin my day! Such a heart warming story. Little did Andre know when he made a gift to one family that it would have such a positive effect on the entire village.

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Cindy Gillespie February 24, 2021 - 1:10 pm

Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing!

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Sue February 24, 2021 - 1:20 pm

Afternoon. What a lovely story. Inspirational. Yes reinventing yourself & helping others & the planet is high on my new list of priorities. Thank you for the post.

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Faith Boggio February 24, 2021 - 1:28 pm

There is always light at the end of a dark tunnel. It’s what you do with that light that brings back the sun shine.
Thank you for your post.

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Viola Jull February 24, 2021 - 1:55 pm

A beautiful story about the human spirit.

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Rhinda February 24, 2021 - 2:01 pm

Beautiful story. I’m grateful you shared the story, Sharon.

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Barbara February 24, 2021 - 2:12 pm

My story is about my brother who had been retired for a number of years. In his rural community migrant workers were not housed properly and Covid numbers were rising which in turn held back the county from reopening. My brother had worked as a reporter and nothing was being reported, simply because local issues were no longer being covered. So he started his own blog. The blog highlights concerns that affect the community as well as celebrating human interest stories.
My bachelor brother has gained so much from this endeavour. A renewed confidence
that led to dating online. Unheard of! He has found a lady. It all started with a gap in the marketplace.

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Kay Perret February 25, 2021 - 1:40 am

How wonderful! And what a great story. Kudos to your brother for stepping up, and stepping into himself.

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Wendy February 24, 2021 - 2:17 pm

Not only is this story about the generosity of Andre, but also about the lack of greed of Jean and his family. Not many would have turned this windfall into an opportunity for others.

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holly February 24, 2021 - 2:34 pm

I just love the seekers of Silver Linings. . .this was the perfect inspiration to start a lovely day. Thank you for sharing

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Barbara Ann February 24, 2021 - 2:47 pm

Starting my day with this inspiring story has lifted my spirits. The world needs more of these stories. Thank you,

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Anne Cummings February 24, 2021 - 3:11 pm

Thank you for sharing this lovely true life happening! Happiness is in sharing and giving in times of troubles. Ok

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Joyce February 24, 2021 - 3:18 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful inspiring story. It brought tears to my eyes.

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Kate Granado February 24, 2021 - 3:20 pm

Beautifully repurposed. Lovely story, so happy I read it before I started my day. Your first comment said that as well. We should all try to find happy, uplifting stories to begin our day.
Thanks so much, Sharon, for sharing this with us. xok

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Merrilee Morrison-Cotter February 24, 2021 - 3:22 pm

This is the way it should be! Such a wonderful accomplishment!

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Anita February 24, 2021 - 3:24 pm

Such an inspiring story. I would love to see photos of the garden, the store and the bistro. Sounds delightful.

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Dorian February 24, 2021 - 3:42 pm

This is a great story to share with others—not only for inspiration but as a reminder that the world is full of good people. Thank you.

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Christine de Castro February 24, 2021 - 3:48 pm

Belle initiative pleine de créativité !

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Tammy February 24, 2021 - 4:07 pm

What a beautiful way to make the most out of a difficult situation, but most of all, I love that it’s teaching young people how to sustain themselves. Thanks for sharing this ❤️

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Irene G Peterson February 24, 2021 - 4:10 pm

Just what we need to hear during this long period of confinement. What a generous and uplifting gift to his community and to himself.

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Eileen February 24, 2021 - 4:15 pm

A wonderful example of paying it forward. Kindness can be catching.

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Aaran February 24, 2021 - 4:29 pm

Brought a tear to my eyes-this is real community! I pray the little village will prosper and continue their new venture always.

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beth February 24, 2021 - 4:42 pm

thank you Sharon – what I wonderful piece to read as I take a break from work and contemplate spring. How I wish I could find a little village like that!!

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Gigi Mauter February 24, 2021 - 4:45 pm

What a fresh, touching, story. The warming light of kindness, creativity and love shines brightly, especially in contrast to the dark, clouds of hopelessness, selfishness and fear that threaten to engulf us. Please share the name of this little village, Sharon.
Gigi

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Kathy Bottrell February 24, 2021 - 4:51 pm

This is just a beautiful story. This supports my belief that while the corporate world holds a certain allure, bigger-in terms of compensation, responsibility, and lifestyle-is not always better.

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Caterina Maggi February 24, 2021 - 5:26 pm

Bellissima storia!!
Grazie.

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Cindy Stierhoff February 24, 2021 - 5:45 pm

Loved your heart warming story, my cup is indeed half full. As an artist still learning, I have been taking a Zoom class on Wed for 2 hours since last April! The art teacher breaks for 3 weeks in between..every subject different..she paints from a small village here in Southern Cal called Balboa Island..it’s made all the difference in my life.

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Mary Hinderer February 24, 2021 - 6:22 pm

Thank you for this wonderful story of the kindness and generosity of neighbors and friends. What a lovely family to have given these young people the opportunity to thrive under difficult conditions.
I hope you will continue to follow the hard work and, hopefully, continued success of these young people and the lovely family who enabled them to build a business, literally from the ground up.

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Sue M February 24, 2021 - 6:30 pm

I loved this! An act of kindness goes a long way…from changing lives of those who unexpectedly received it then planted the seed for to others in need to flourish and grow from it. This would make a lovely inspirational book (movie even) written by you, Sharon. In these uncertain and struggling times you, as a local and writer yourself witnessing firsthand can give perspective and charming characters. I believe sharing your story could possibly help more than you know in assisting others experiencing similar situations.

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Michele M. February 24, 2021 - 6:44 pm

This is precious and brilliant and heart-warming. Came at a good time for me. Thank you for sharing.

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Suze Pfaffinger February 24, 2021 - 7:31 pm

Loved this innovative generous story of one man’s vision giving purpose , hope, skills, & community to his town & especially by employing the young people that are now home. We had to have a new business model after 35 years in our brick & mortar as a shoe repair business. We went mobile converting our old 1976 Ford pickup along with a shell on the back as our mobile shoe repair service. We park on the same street where our old brick & mortar is & our customers Jew & old come to get their shoes repaired & are so happy that we haven’t just gone out of business at age 70 plus. We are happy & so is our community!!

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Dixie February 24, 2021 - 9:26 pm

What a caring and productive brain wave Jean had.
A truly inspiring story.

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Vicky February 24, 2021 - 10:04 pm

Very inspiring. I wonder if many of the young people will continue to stay in the village now they have found themselves contributing significantly in a caring community.

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Laura February 24, 2021 - 10:08 pm

What a functional and lovely solution to what might have been a disastrous situation for the youngsters. Saludos to Jean and family for allowing this in their new property..

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Claudia rivas molina February 24, 2021 - 10:14 pm

So nice and full of hope story. Thank you for sharing it.

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Teresa Applegate February 24, 2021 - 11:06 pm

Great story and solution!! Love hearing these reinvention tales! Thanks for sharing.

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Marian Waggener February 25, 2021 - 3:41 am

Your photography brings me such joy and I thank God for you…a breath of fresh air.
Thank you for lifting our sagging emotion and bringing “reinventing” to the forefront of our everyday lives.

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Dana February 25, 2021 - 3:58 am

Thank you for this beautiful and inspiring story!

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Ligia February 25, 2021 - 7:03 am

Lovely! Inspiring! Thank you for sharing, Sharon!

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Joyce Davis February 25, 2021 - 3:53 pm

So, it is just not the American spirit that carries forth in a crisis, but our good friends the French are moving ahead as well. Young people all over America are taking to the fields and the barns. Organic and homegrown fruits and vegetables are popping up along roadsides for sale. Dairy cows are finding their milk being hauled to small farms that are making wonderful new cheeses. It is an age of excitement. A Renaissance of the soul.

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Kameela February 25, 2021 - 5:39 pm

A beautiful story Sharon. So uplifting. A silver lining in this and the reader’s comments. Andre’s legacy

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Lisa Smith February 26, 2021 - 5:59 pm

Sitting in bed, faithful pup by my side and coffee in hand and unsuccessfully holding back tears. What an inspirational story…and kudos to the young man who paid his gift forward, and the village elders who saw the genius behind it. A win/win for everyone! Thank you Sharon, for sharing this wonderful story…a reminder of just how little it takes to make a huge difference for so many. Have a fabulous day!

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Carol February 27, 2021 - 9:16 pm

Loved this story! Thank you Sharon.

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Emm March 1, 2021 - 9:21 am

Thank you for this lovely story. I hope you can do a follow-up at some point, perhaps with pictures and/or interviews in the village. Or maybe as a feature for your magazine?
And thank you, as well, for the beautiful picture of the sun shining through the trees and the glorious Norman countryside.

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Rakhinationwide March 19, 2021 - 11:50 am

Oh interesting! I love this, and it looks so great.

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Alice April 9, 2021 - 1:01 pm

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Barnali Guha April 9, 2021 - 6:23 pm

What a beautiful story. I hope the cafe is called Andre in his memory and the grounds /gardens are named after Jean and his family. They could start tours after things are opened and more people will enjoy this graciousness. This is truly a case of Pay it Forward for the entire village. Bravo!

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