The venue was an Art Museum--a classic Spanish style mansion filled with artistic treasures. We gathered in an upstairs gallery, its walls lined with paintings, its corners adorned with sculpture.
The music was sublime: a pianist, a cellist, a violinist.
The women were lovely! Marcia in her sea green dress, Lisa in cowboy boots, Nicole focused and organized, Tresa with her camera, Brandi with her grandma, Kay with her elegant demeanor, and Cathi--the purveyor of beautifully presented food.
And the speakers! Our first guest, Dr. Bennet, an expert in manuscripts, admonished his audience to go to primary documents when looking for truth. He talked about forgeries, records, the collecting and preservation of original sources. He shared personal experiences from his many years of devotion to truth.
Our Imaginative Leap: Making Connections through Literature and Conversations, theme was enhanced by a panel of people chosen to teach us what it is like to walk in their shoes. Mr. and Mrs. Bond taught us what it was like to live in a partial and non-hearing world. Diego shared his story of an Ecuadorian man coming to work in the United States and having to adjust to a different culture. Maysa spoke of her life as a minority in America, a Muslim woman.
It was my role to introduce our panel of guests. My introduction: "In the early 90s Tony and I were waiting for a cab. The head valet dressed to clearly show his position, whistled for the cab. We could see the expected cab but his trunk was open and he was conversing with other cab drivers. There was a short delay before he rushed to the driver seat and pulled up next to us. The valet verbally attacked the man for his delay; it was forceful and over the top. Tony and I were uncomfortable watching the valet berate a grown man who appeared to be guilty of such a minor infraction. When we got in the back of the cab, the discomfort continued. The man was visibly shaken and then he opened up.
'He doesn’t know who I am,' were his first words.
'I am a doctor who escaped Afghanistan because I would have been killed.'
Those words have stayed with me for more almost two decades.
After their incredible presentations, I had the privilege of closing the gala with my conversation with Syrian refugees in Athens. It was a tender experience (posted in January).
Probably the greatest lesson I learned was from the three most important people sitting in the audience. My children.
Normally I wouldn't have invited them. If I am speaking, even dancing (just twice), I keep it to myself. I don't want the focus to be on me. Yet, after their attendance at the gala, I saw a different side to my position--it now seems selfish. Why shouldn't they have the chance to learn about me, to see a different side of their perceived Mom? It hit me that I won't be alive forever; I need to give in a different way than I am used to giving.
Generosity isn't all about material things; it's about experience and the revealing of oneself.