Helping With The Healing

You sit there sometimes numb, wounded, staggered by the enormity of it all and you wonder what there is that's really left to say. Just about everything, after all, has been said over the past two months.'

We've lived through the shock, the horror, the loss, the grief, the confusion, the anger. We've heard about how the events of Sept. 11 have mobilized America, reshaped who we are, trivialized the mundane tasks we often occupy ourselves with. We've talked about how the most devastating tragedy in U.S. history has reminded us of our fragility, taught us to appreciate the important things in our lives, given us determination to carry on, move forward, celebrate special moments, rebuild.'

So what is there left to say?
Perhaps simply that it's heartwarming to see what the kitchen and bath industry is doing on behalf of the victims and heroes of Sept. 11 the support by associations, corporations and individuals; the fund-raising efforts; the acts of compassion and sympathy.

It's gratifying, at the same time, to simply report that the kitchen and bath industry is managing to move forward. Dealers, designers and cabinet shops, for the most part, are reporting only a minor, and temporary, impact on their businesses. Activity, which slowed in the weeks following Sept. 11, is showing signs of coming back. Companies that pulled back are now implementing strategies to stimulate business. Job sites are moving ahead at their traditional pre-holiday pace. Customers after an understandable period of mourning, uncertainty and fear are proceeding with their big-ticket plans as they regain their confidence and equilibrium.'

That aside, it's probably also worth reminding ourselves, in moments we fail to see it, how much a part of the nation's rebuilding process this industry, and all of us, can be.

It's worth noting, for example, that the kitchen/bath industry, if nothing else, has always been about helping to build and rebuild; about allowing people to dream, and then see those dreams come true; about allowing homeowners to envision a better tomorrow, and then invest in that bold act of faith; about allowing designs to improve people's lives, bring them together, lift their spirits.

That's probably more true now than ever, of course, in the wake of all that's happened.

Even prior to the events of the past two months it was clear that the American people had developed perhaps a stronger-than-ever emotional attachment to their home. The American home alternately viewed over the years as a pit stop, a castle, a showplace and a status symbol had come to be seen in recent years, more than ever, as a refuge, a haven, a sanctuary from the pressures, demands and dangers of the outside world.

Now, the home will likely grow even more in importance to Americans, and continue to be seen as a place to spend more time in, to focus on, to target investments at.

At the same time, it was also clear prior to Sept. 11 that kitchens and baths had attained an unmatched prominence in American homes.

The kitchen, of course, had only recently returned to its roots as the multi-purpose heart of the home, the one room that could bond, heal, comfort, allow meaningful connections with loved ones. It had already become the one room in the home that could give people back what the outside world often managed to take away stress-free family time, a personalized "feel-good" space, a room that allowed people to share a multitude of simple pleasures.

Similarly, baths in the process of becoming stylish spaces that enabled homeowners to express their sense of luxury, taste, style and sophistication had clearly also become places to retreat to, escape, relax, rejuvenate.

The Sept. 11 tragedy, in a sad, strange way, may serve to strengthen the bond Americans have with their home, and the importance of kitchens and baths within those homes.

By reminding ourselves of that every once in awhile, and simply carrying on with our work, the kitchen and bath industry can emerge as a prime agent in the much-needed process of recovery, restoration and rebuilding.

The industry can help America heal, in other words, by doing what it has always done: designing spaces that comfort and nourish the soul; inspiring confidence and faith; helping people plan, and allowing them, once again, to attain some semblance of normalcy by focusing on their home, their dreams, their future.