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From Home Furnishing Business

Lessons of the Oak

By: Sheila Long O'Mara

Off a small, nondescript Road  in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, one can find what has been reported as the oldest thing—living or man-made—east of the Mississippi River. The Angel Oak, a giant live oak that some say is around 1,500 years old, stands impressively sprawling.

To say the least, she’s a sight to be seen. She stands a mere 65 feet, relatively short for an oak, but her canopy provides more than 17,000 square feet of shade with her outstretched boughs. Her circumference is nearly 25 feet, and some of her limbs rest on the ground due to their size and her age.

She’s tired and gracefully aged, but she’s managed to weather the worst of hurricanes, including Hugo in 1989. She’s witnessed the founding of the United States. During her life, she survived the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement in the heart of the South, and more recently, the threat of encroaching development.

Oh, the stories she could tell if she were able.

Maybe she’d recount tales of sweetgrass baskets being woven in her shade. Perhaps she’d share the ugly part of our history that includes the horrific treatment and unjust murders of people of color.

Maybe those outstretched limbs offered cover for people trying to escape slavery.

Like this stately oak tree, roots in the home furnishings business run deep and wide. The history isn’t always pretty, but it has brought us to this moment in time. We, as a group, have created our now, and we are now laying the foundation for our future. We’ll shape how tomorrow looks.

Whether we like it or not, we are an industry built, and one that thrives, on relationships. Just as in our personal lives, those relationships can become strained, but most are worth the extra effort required to mend them.

And, the next time you’re in Charleston, S.C., do yourself a favor and drive the 12 miles from downtown to John’s Island to see Angel Oak. She’s worth the short trip.

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