My Home Burned Down Before Thanksgiving & I Am Still Thankful

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Post by: Latham Thomas

Post by: Latham Thomas

I used to live in a beautiful apartment for 11 years in Harlem in New York City. It was located on the most historic block in Harlem, tree lined, gorgeous and world famous for it’s colorful history and the notable people who lived there. I moved into that apartment when my son was just 5 months old and built a happy life there. I remember having a conversation with myself about moving at the 10 year mark, that timing felt good. My whole life and business was downtown, my office is in Soho and my son’s school was in Chelsea, but I lived all the way uptown, so commuting on the subway was the norm.

I was playing with the idea of a new place for a while, I wanted new energy, something with outdoor space, but wasn’t motivated to start looking for a new apartment.  I lived in a perfect place, 2000 square feet with 3 bedrooms, three fire places, two bathrooms, a walk in pantry and a washer and drier, a full living room and dining room, it was known as a classic six- and highly coveted in the New York real estate market. It’s the type of place you don’t move from, that you keep in the family. Half of my neighbors had lived most of their lives in that building one of them had lived there 65 years.

My decade had come and gone and I was in my 11th year living in this beautiful space. Two days before Thanksgiving, on the morning of the Mike Brown verdict, my son and I left our home and headed on our routine trip downtown to school for drop off, then I arrived at my office. I got a phone call a mere hour after setting foot out the door that our apartment building was on fire. I was flooded with emotion, but stayed very calm. I called neighbors to be sure everyone was safe and exiting the building, thankfully everyone was safe and escaped. The damage was devastating and although I wanted to go back and sort out my life, I was afraid for what I would see. When I arrived it looked like a warzone. I was escorted into the building by the chief of the department of buildings, just so I could collect some things to take with me. No one was allowed to stay there, the firemen bust through every door, destroyed windows so the building was vulnerable for looting. Although my unit was the only one that was “livable” and not completely destroyed, we couldn’t go home. The fire had been reported all over the news so I was getting calls from everyone I knew panicking over our safety.

I had to wear a mask to enter the building and it wasn’t lit, there was no electricity or gas. Glass shards were everywhere and murky muddy water mixed with sand covered the floors as I made my walking up to the 4th floor. There was a dank blanket of smoke that filled the apartment and all of my clothes smelled like I had been sitting around a camp fire for days on end. I gathered what I needed most immediately and in darkness, packed our lives into suitcases and a duffel bag- having no idea at the moment where I would be going or what I would say to my son. My son never went back to our home after we left that morning. I couldn’t bring him to see the devastation left behind in the aftermath. I was afraid of what his response would be, when I told him- he asked me “is everyone ok?” I said yes, everyone is safe, he said “well that’s good”. And he never mentioned it again. He was fine, phew!

We were welcomed with warm open arms at Soho House, a members club and community that I frequent in the meatpacking district of NYC, and they graciously put us up for two weeks in their hotel while the dust settled. We went from having a beautiful home, to no home, to staying in the most beautiful of accommodations and having the general manager and staff looking after our every need. Thanksgiving was the next day and we were invited by Alicia Keys to spend Thanksgiving with her and her family, which couldn’t have been more incredible and grounding for my son and I who really needed to be around family during that time. I told very few people about this experience that I am sharing with you now.

Many tenants were forced to leave as the landlords dragged their feet with repairs through the winter. My son and I were displaced and living out of suitcases and in a sublet in the West Village until we found a new place to settle for good after the winter. I saw very clearly that beneath this new challenge I was facing was an opportunity and that if I trusted, God had already worked it out on the other side. I needed to see this as a spiritual growth spurt. It was clearing the space for something new, for abundance and because I couldn’t take the leap to move- God removed me from my circumstances and was opening the door for new energy, and a new home.

I found a new place, at the right time, Spring- ushering in new beginnings, and it felt good to clear out 11 years of my life and give most of my belongings away. I got new furnishings and started fresh. With the help of Marie Kondo’s international bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I breezed through the sorting, saving, organizing and giving away my belongings. I went from living in a historic prewar walk-up, to a new doorman building with an elevator, although sometimes I miss the stairs, I don’t miss the commute. I walk my son to school 3 blocks away and I can walk to my office and spend quiet mornings on the rooftop or meditating on the highline amongst the plants. The universe really had this worked out!

Sometimes God will move a perceived obstacle out of the way that you couldn’t move on your own- a job, a relationship, your beautiful home…

My question to you is- Are you so stubborn that you are willing to miss out on everything and everyone that can come into your life and enhance it, before you are willing to embrace change?

I ask myself this question when I am in a holding pattern: What will it take for me to let this go? Personal growth is not about how much you accumulate, but how much you release. I am thankful for the blessing in disguise. What are the hardships that you are thankful for? I invite you to reflect on not only the good, but the challenges too and find space to give thanks.

All my Love,

Latham

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