Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, dipped in gold at the national dinner for The Human Rights Campaign.
It was a day off. I got up early and made my organic french roast, freshly ground, french pressed coffee. I wrote for a while, just to clear out some thoughts and then read until my deeper voice came. Mid-day my guy Patrick from the Pest Control people came to see if all was quiet on the western front. Sure enough another little rodent was caught in my attic crawl space. “I think this is finally the last of them,” he said. “I’ll check on you next week.” As he left, I felt safe. I felt well cared for. I am safe. I am very well cared for.
I went to the gym. I work out at Equinox, and my favorite of all their locations is downtown. As you get off the escalator, you are greeted by a magnificent waterfall in the center of a breath taking open courtyard . The buildings framed against a sky defining blue become modern art. The light and shade play against glass and metal and water, and often I think to come back and spend the day, right there. I am filled with gratitude each time I step off the elevator to head into the gym.
I rode the bike and watched the news, drank water, texted, read mail, instagrammed. I did some incline walking on the treadmill. I spent ten minutes on the rowing machine. I took time to breathe and stretch and do abs in the dance studio. Alone there in the quiet, I closed my eyes and felt the ease of my good life. I have a good life.
The night before last I began work on a poem it is long and intense. In one moment of it, I ask, “When the buildings fall, and when the bombs break, and when the guns blare, and when the hunger comes, and the babies starve, and the water rises, and land dries up and the mothers cry, Where is God? Where is God? Well….. where are you? Where are you?
Why suffering? Why pain and anguish? For us, perhaps, for us to pick up the job of humanity. Perhaps for us to learn to love beyond ourselves.
I stopped by my store. The air in the great space was fresh and the light clean. All was in order. I enjoyed my team and we studied a few new designs and spoke of our growth. It is so apparent to me that we are expanding organically, easily, beautifully and with so much love. The work we are doing with our amazing clients is very rewarding. I am rewarded.
I drove to the bank. I had checks to deposit. I still get residual checks from my days acting and had a 1700 dollar deposit to add to my normal earnings.
On my arrival I saw a young girl holding a large cardboard box of chocolate bars. She was in a plaid jumper and had on poor brown shoes, socks barely to her calves, a little yellow blouse. To her side was a child. Perhaps her sister. As I put money in my meter I felt the resentment come up in me, quickly. I felt it so quickly come up that feeling of “here we go… I don’t want to buy chocolate from her and I hate how she has been placed at the door of the bank, no less, and the little one too, to tug even more firmly on my heart. I have important things to think about, and I will look preoccupied, and I will be busy with myself, and perhaps I can put my face in my phone.”
I turned and saw her, petite, maybe 14, her thin brown hair parted to the side held with a plain bobby pin, and she caught my eye and smiled with timidity and eagerness at once. As I took the four shallow steps up to the bank door, I relented.
The mind and the heart sing in harmony so quickly, sometimes.
I turned to her, “Are you selling those for your school?” “No,” she said, “I’m a senior and I am trying to save up to go to college.”
“How much are you selling them for?” I asked, looking into the box and a large collection of thin, poor chocolate bars. “A dollar each,” hopeful, smiling, her retainer catching the light. I nodded and with a sigh, “Well, that is going to take a while.” I reached into my purse. I opened my wallet. “Are you a good student?” I looked at her. “Yes, I am.” “Good,” I said. “Good, I am glad. What is it that you want to study when you go to college?” and she replied,”I want to study micro biology.” (Dear God, let me find a million dollars in my wallet.)
I asked the little waif, the little sprite by her side, looking at me with eyes like the moon, like a puddle, like a my own heart, I asked her with a teacherly sweetness if she could count out ten for me.
She moved so quickly to it, to live up to counting, to show me that she could, to respond as if to an order. There was so much desire to please and I held my breathing steadily to telepathically steady her. I passed a ten to my little sales girl and took the ten bars of chocolate from her assistant and I asked if at one dollar a bar she made any money on this. She nodded her head with an “of course” as if my question were ridiculous. “Yes,” she said, smiling so openly, “yes, I do”. She reassured me. She then blessed me.” God bless you,” she said. I thanked her and let her know that he does indeed bless me. I smiled at her a sad smile and turned away with my self satisfaction and ten bars of chocolate I didn’t need.
I went into the bank and made my deposit at the window. The teller smiled at me seeing the ten bars clutched awkwardly in my hand.
I took my receipt and as I passed the ATM I heard it, the harmonized voice of my mind and my heart and in an instant I decided to be God.
Why not? Who else? I withdrew 100 in cash, stepped out the door and said, “Count out the whole box. Lets see how many you have there.” I looked up and behind her now was our waif and she was in the arms of her mother and to her side, another woman, also a mother, or an aunt perhaps.
“You are done selling these for today.” And as she counted them, oddly in threes, I spoke into her heart, I placed it into her mind, I took her by the shoulders in the certainty of my voice alone….” I know you will get to college and I know you will do great things in this life. I am very proud of you for being so committed.” She counted 43 and I passed her 43 dollars. Out of her hands I took the box. She looked at me with disbelief, with gratitude with un-merited awe, “Thank you, God bless you.” And then both women,”God bless you”
I looked into her face and with all my heart I said, “I only wish I could send you to college. I wish I could take care of it all for you.”
She reached to touch my hand and we met at the edge of the box of chocolates, She said. “Oh, that’s ok. Thank you.”
I walked to my car and as I opened the door I felt my heart expand and wondered why I was crying.
My heart breaks for her.
My heart breaks for her.
I want to run back and find her, and take her, and make her mine. I would bust my ass every day to get her through college. I would lay it all down for that one little girl standing there, on the steps of the bank selling chocolate bars for a dollar a piece, having made 53 dollars today of which she may keep perhaps 20…. to save… to go to college.
She will get there. Not that way, but she will get there bit by bit, one person at a time, one ounce of love and consideration at a time.
I love her for her faith. I love her for her open heartedness. I love her for trusting that she will go to college to study microbiology.
On November 13th I will celebrate the beginning of my 10th year of business.
Thank you. Really. All of you.
I marvel at these past ten years, particularly at how very perfectly and organically this company has grown.
I can only attribute the growth to what I might call a loving, creative collaboration.
My collaborators have, of course, been you.
I see now that the lessons I learned regarding service are those that have ultimately served me best.
It is clear to me too, that all I made for you has been everything that has made me.
The biggest change in our company is that our bridal and evening collection, SHAREEN, is now earning between 50 and 70 percent of our earnings.
You have taken me from dressing you for your proms in 50’s tulle, to draping you in chiffons or swathing you in organza, for your parties and your weddings.
You cannot know what it feels like to me to see some of you in my bridal gowns knowing that we stood together in the parking lot of a flea market ten years ago, you in braces and combat boots, me starting a whole new way in life, blind except for your demand and direction.
Thank you for bringing me your needs and trusting me to meet them.
The NY store has had a complete renovation. It is beautiful and elegant and now receives one bridal appointment after the next. The vintage is still ever present but there is no mistaking that my New York clients come to me for the big event.
The LA store has already shape shifted to housing an extraordinary collection of vintage bridal and our line. The level of service in that store for evening wear and brides is incomparable. Fabric swatches on hand, the taking of measurements, mixing bodices to skirts, my amazing production team at the ready, and me, willing to work with you, hear you thoughts and bend to you. I’m no idiot. I know now that to design for you is to design my future.