Shine

Posted | 9 comments

Shine

When I lived in Temecula, I had the pleasure of knowing a lovely woman named Ann. We were both the mothers of three, with her children continuing in age where mine stopped. We met at church and bonded volunteering during vacation bible school one summer.

Ann was simply amazing. She was drop dead gorgeous and her children were intelligent, kind, and funny. She was married to a man who I promise you had to have been the model for the Ken doll. She was always fashionably dressed with her make-up tastefully applied and each hair on her head was exactly where it needed to be. Her home was decorated and tidy. Her yard was well manicured and inviting. She was always the first person in line to lend a helping hand.

When I stood next to Ann, I always felt a little frumpy. She didn’t seem to mind. She happily embraced me in spite of my make-up less face and decidedly “mom” wardrobe. When I see someone amazing, I move toward them. I analyze them. I learn from them. I look at it this way, if they can do something amazing, then maybe, just maybe I can too. People like Ann fill me with hope and motivate me to dream bigger.

I had the pleasure of attending a film festival awards gala with a friend who was being honored. As I followed him and his family to the green room, I spotted this vision in a jade green gown floating among the tables making last minute adjustments: sliding a water glass here or moving a fork there. It was Ann. I made a beeline for her weaving in and out of the tables as quickly as I could. I called her name and she turned, her face lighting up when she saw me. We embraced and immediately began catching up.

She told me that since her youngest had just started high school she had decided to start an event planning business (perfect choice) and had volunteered to help with the gala for the experience and connections. As she gushed on about her new business and how exciting working on the gala committee was, I could clearly see that Ann was exactly where she needed to be doing exactly what she needed to be doing. She was filled to overflowing with happiness and joy and excitement.

The evening, in part due to Ann’s diligence, went off like a dream. The food was delicious and as the sun set, the patio where we were seated transformed into a fairy-like dream with thousands of white lights strewn in the surrounding oaks and the brilliant stars twinkling overhead. Being treated to a concert by Billy Preston just made the night that much more perfect.

As I was leaving, I caught sight of Ann. Something wasn’t right. Even though she was doing what needed to be done, I could tell that her earlier excitement had waned. I asked my husband to give me a minute and I went over to thank her for the lovely evening, but really I  wanted to make sure she was alright. Her face crumbled when she saw me and fighting back tears she pulled me away from the crowd.

Apparently, once the gala had gotten underway, the woman who was the chair of the committee pulled Ann aside. She told Ann that she was overdressed for the event and that she was, well, she was just doing too much. She then reassigned Ann to the clean up crew and told her to go hang out by the catering trucks. Ann had stood with nothing to do by herself unable to see anything that was happening on the stage for the entirety of the event while the other nine members of the committee and the chair enjoyed it from the sidelines. While the rest of the committee was shaking hands and escorting guest to the gate, Ann was bussing tables.

My heart broke. Here was my friend just doing her best and being her best and this chairperson ruined it.

I did my best to reassure Ann she had no reason to feel shame. I pointed out that every woman at the event including the other chairs were at the very least wearing a cocktail dress and many had on full length gowns just like hers. At least half the men were in tuxedos with the other half in suits. I complimented her work ethic and reminded her that she had done her best. I tried to make her laugh at being the only gala volunteer bussing tables with the hired wait staff in a jade green satin gown. Then I told her that she looked gorgeous and she was amazing and that if the chair was unable to recognize that fact then it was just her loss.

I’ve thought about this event many times in the years since and how this type of scenario plays itself out over and over and over again. We are encouraged by our parents, our teachers, our bosses, and by society as a whole to do our best be our best, but the second, and I do mean the very second someone has the will, the strength, the vigor to reach for the proverbial brass ring, we turn on that person like a pack of rabid hyenas. We look down our noses, we roll our eyes, and behind the person’s back we say, “who does she think she is?”

I don’t know if I made Ann feel better. I hope I did. I also hope she didn’t let the petty, mean-spirited chair darken her dreams or dim her light. I hope Ann made the decision to continue to shine.

9 Comments

  1. I am so inspired by your writing!

    • Thanks, Linda. I’m glad you enjoy it.

  2. Exactly.
    Why women in particular feel the need to squash someone’s spirit like an annoying bug… I’ll never really understand. I fine in general, women suffer so much from insecurity, that anyone “rising above” is a threat to their own progression.
    It’s a great testimony to your heart that you are happy for her success and encouraged her. You are keenly aware of others and are able to read people well… and then have the ability to act on that.
    Ann… pfsh. She’s going to be fine…especially since she has friends who will encourage her.
    You, my friend, are a rare soul. What a treasure YOU are!

    • It’s a bit of selfishness on my part, Kimber. I really love being surrounded by amazing, accomplished people (it’s why Whittle was such a joyful gift). The only way to have that is to celebrate other people’s success, so that they continue to up their game and so that I’m inspired to up mine.

  3. Nice narrative story. I like the word “shine.”

    • Thanks for not mentioning the grammatical mistakes.

  4. What a beautiful story. What an inspiration you are. You know how you felt about Ann? That’s how I feel about you.

    • Right back at you.

  5. Wow, this makes me think of my daughter. Right now (no, I am not allowed in the room which is why I am at a computer, to keep myself busy!) she is singing in the second round in the Classical Singers Nationals for high schoolers (one of only 220 of the more than 2500 in the nation to get past the first round!) but her high school choir teacher insists that her voice teacher (a professional mezzo soprano opera singer!) is “ruining her voice”. This same choir teacher has told her that she must change teachers to someone she recommends or “she just doesn’t know how she will ever have a solo or a lead role here at the school”.

    Well, short story long, M quite the school choir this week!

    I really hate people who try to bring others down so that they can control them. Petty people who are in positions of power in little ponds – my pet peeve of the week.

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