January 15, 2017
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

January signifies renewal. It’s a new year; the canvas is clean and we start over. Opportunities, challenges and new adventures are before us.

Thinking ahead has me also thinking about purpose. How do we crystallize our purpose in the work we do and the relationships we maintain? How do we find meaning day-to-day? How do we make a positive impact? How do we leave a legacy of goodwill and inspiration?
These are complex and profound questions people have been asking themselves for generations. They are deeply personal questions.

These questions got me to thinking about my own life. Where have my influences come from? What experiences do I remember that have shaped my personality? Here, I will share some select memories with you in an effort to find purpose and meaning from them.

I clearly remember my first grade teacher. She had empathy. She cared. I also remember my grade five math teacher because he compared me to my older sister and wondered aloud if I would be as good in math as her. That experience turned me off math to this very day.

As a teenager, I remember my mother sleeping beside me when I was recovering from a car accident. I was very fortunate to have an amazing mom. She had an abundance of love and concern for just about everyone in her circle of family and friends.

In college, two incidents influenced my career. Before being accepted into the landscape program at Humber College I was interviewed by program coordinator Rick Hook. Mr. Hook was an intimidating character. He had a rich vocabulary and used words I had never heard before. I was a directionless young man who was wondering if the landscape profession was right for me. As I walked into Rick’s office, he did something I remember vividly to this day. It was a very simple gesture with a permanent impact. He stood up from behind his large and spotless desk and sat in the chair beside me. I have no idea what we talked about, but from this simple experience, I knew he cared.

A year later, the landscape department was hosting a seminar featuring a panel discussion on the future of the profession. The panelists were the “who’s-who” of the industry, including the college president and a highly-placed Minister of Parliament (possibly even the Minister of Colleges and Universities). Students were required to attend and as we filed into the theatre, one of the teachers, Art Coles, took me aside and asked me to moderate the panel. It was a frightening and overwhelming request. I hesitated, but Art kept encouraging me. He had more faith in my ability than I did, so I moderated the panel. I remember the feeling of exhilaration once it was all over. What touched me more was Art’s support and belief in me.

Last month, something very interesting happened at the Landscape Ontario office. As I was walking out of a meeting, both Rick Hook and Art Coles were in the lobby looking for me. Both are retired. They were meeting at the LO office as part of the Niagara Parks Alumni Association. I had not seen Rick in decades. I welcomed him into my office and I made a point of sitting in the chair beside him. It was wonderful to relay the story about his simple gesture and how much it had affected my own approach. I also had the opportunity to tell Art about his influence on me.

There is a well-known saying, “People may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” I am sure you have many similar stories and

Now let’s go back to my opening questions. Can these simple memories reveal meaning and purpose? There is a thread of care, concern, optimism and positivity that connect the stories.

We all have an awesome opportunity to create memories for others that will connect and inspire generations to come. May our collective New Year’s resolutions involve those experiences that will make our families, employees and customers feel that we care. Your LO family wishes you prosperity, health and happiness in the world.
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at  tony@landscapeontario.com.