Three years ago, just before the holidays, I was sitting in my studio in Chesapeake Virginia. A few mom's were painting holiday gifts with their young children and we were enjoying some Starbucks and great conversation as beautiful art was being created!
In the back of my mind, while I was enjoying the company and the business, I was stressing about all the work that i had yet to do in order to complete all of the many holiday orders that were upon me.
And at this, an elderly lady walks through the front door. At least 88 if not older. She was holding a zip lock back with a lump of clay in it. She walked up to the front of the store and she started to shake and tears came to her eyes...as she held out the lump of clay and told me her story.
The clay held the paw print of her deceased cat. The cat had been her only roommate, her only love, and it has passed away of natural causes just a few days before. It had been cremated and the vet had placed a paw print of the Cat in this lump of clay that she held before me.
It was all she had left. It had cat hair stuck in it and it was a rough looking piece of clay. She asked me in the most kind voice I have ever heard, "Can you help me to make this more special and bake it for me so that it will always be with me and it won't be so fragile?"
Of course I offered to do this at no cost and in short order. I asked her about what kind of clay it was, she gave me the details..... and gave her a date to come back for her memories... and she left.
I looked up the type of clay right away - so that I did right by this special piece of art... and started painting and engraving the lump so that it could make my next oven load of goodies! Two days later, it emerged from the oven. Or wait...no it didn't. The darn lump of clay with the cats paw print EXPLODED IN THE OVEN. It not only did not survive the process, but in the explosion, the fragments ruined about 15 other pieces of art that people had worked very hard on.
And so the process of calling the people and telling them that they had to re-make grandmas mug and the vase for mom...began. Never easy to call and say you have screwed up, but it happened now and again and I did it. With a lump in my throat and sweaty palms...but I always made those calls and gave my whole heart full of sympathy...offered a free replacement, and offered my help to get it done in short order.
But the paw print? That can't be replace? That was going to be my hardest call yet. Allof a sudden the stress of the holidays seemd a vacation from this situation that was upon me.
So this day, as I sat quietly watching people paint, I had a mom come up to me and say, "Renee, you are not yourself today...is everything ok?" And while I would not normally give my tails of woe to a customer, I was so full of sadness that I dumped it all on her. Even shed a tear as I spoke?
When I was finished with the story, this mom looked at me and said, "Ya know Renee...there are some truths that do not benefit the world." "I have a plan!"
she revealed that she had a cat at home that would be more than happy - not - to oblige a footprint, and that she knew I had clay, and if we worked together, we could give this nice woman the memory that she longed for. And she further convinced me that this small lie would bring peace at the holidays to a very lonely woman and that this lie was what was necessary to do the right thing.
well if there is one thing harder for me than admitting to customers that I had messed up their art...it was Lying? But just the same, this mom gave me her number and said, think about it and call me.
After sleeping on it that night, I decided that she was right. The next day - as she promised, she came and picked up a new and similar piece of clay and went to work with her cat at home. She brought back in the lump with a print in it..I decorated it, engraved it....cooked it...and called our dear lady friend to tell her it was done!
The lady came in that next day and she walked just as fast as she could over to me and hugged me with all she had in her. She got tears in here eyes as she told me that she could now celebrate the holidays knowing that her baby was with her forever!
I swore I would never tell anyone that I did this, and I have shared it with a few people, but not many! :) But today it seemed fitting. Because three years later, I can still remember her hug, and her gratitude. And while the lie was hard for me, it was necessary. Compassion was necessary, but not in the normal realm and I am thankful for the mom that showed this to me and I am thankful that I had faith in what I didn't understand.
Show compassion this holiday season...and all year for that matter! Show it with all that you have! And make sure that the true needs of the receiver are in your heart when you do!! True compassion makes the world a better place and all these years later, I am actually grateful that I was able to do this backwards, yet necessary show of love for a dear lady at Christmas time! :)
Merry Christmas to you all!!