Anchored in Integrity: a gift from the past
By: Aloura Melissa Charles, December 8, 2022
Cleaning my garage (as you do when you have COVID and no place to go), I unearthed mail my parents forwarded me after I left Tallahassee over twenty years ago. Judging by the post mark it was sent shortly after my FSU film school graduation, when I was living in LA working as an intern on EdTV. Inside an unopened envelope from Anchor Realty on St. George Island was something a couch surfing college grad would have desperately wanted—a check for three hundred dollars! A house rental deposit, still undeposited decades later. Was it from a family beach house gathering? A high school friends’ reunion? Or a rental during the time I worked on the set of Ulee’s Gold with Peter Fonda? Whatever the case, it was now paper trash so into the recycling it went, me feeling like a fool. The next day I was still thinking about that check. What if the small company had weathered all the hurricanes, survived the pandemic and was still around? What if the owner decided to do something magnanimous and reissue it? After all, it was the holidays. I’d started my career in LA with my mentor Ron Howard who told stories that championed the human spirit. I was currently writing movies for Hallmark, about the magic of Christmas. Could this sad, little story have a happy ending? My husband thought I was crazy when he found me upside down, digging through the recycling bin, but I had to try. We were heading back to Tallahassee to see my family the next day, so I found the website for Anchor Realty of St. George Island and emailed a letter with a photo of the check. I did not hold my breath.
Two days later, I found myself standing in the parking lot of Publix in Tallahassee, shaking the hand of a distinguished looking Parisian gentleman with a warm smile. Olivier Monod is the owner of Anchor, still selling houses on the uniquely beautiful Florida coast. “I’ve never gotten a letter like yours!” he laughed. “My CFO and accountant told me not to pay, but I have to reward your creativity!” With a twinkle in his eye that looked a bit like Santa, he handed me a check. I was overwhelmed. He didn’t know I planned to put the money toward UNDER, a humanitarian short I’m directing. A group of fellow moms in film and I are making the short movie to help destigmatize postpartum depression and promote awareness about human trafficking. When we finish the film, there will be a special thanks to Olivier Monod and Anchor Realty. There was no legal obligation to honor a decades old debt but in Monod’s own words: “There’s a difference between legal and ethical. This was the right thing to do.” Monod hadn’t just given me three hundred dollars, but a renewal of faith in human kindness and the integrity of small businesses.