In 2014, there were two ordinary days when I met two extraordinary women.
2014 was not a year I care to relive. Pain and loss took an emotional toll that even daily floral therapy couldn’t cure. But, sunshine did pour down on two occasions in particular when I found myself at the respective doorsteps of two inspirational women: Rev. Dr. Youtha Hardman-Cromwell and Diane Rehm.
Although I would exchange hellos with Youtha on Sunday mornings at our church, it wasn’t until a hot afternoon in early July that I visited her Washington, DC home. The reason for my initial meeting was quickly addressed and then we began a more significant exchange, sharing history, heartbreaks and hopes for the future. At one point, as my eyes brimmed, she stood to reach a box of Kleenex and placed it on the dining room table in between us –a gesture of real compassion and understanding.
For years, I knew Ms. Rehm as the voice of journalistic curiosity who, through the radio air waves, accompanied me as I drove in and around the metropolitan area. Now on a cool September morning, I nervously stood at her front door, hoping I looked professional enough to be a business woman but creative enough to be a florist worthy of her caliber of entertaining. She opened the door with a smile and a warm greeting. As I handed her my card, she inquired about Free Spirit Floral and I briefly mentioned my midlife pivot from politics to posies. After we discussed her floral needs, she said, “now let’s sit down and I want you to tell me how a lobbyist became a florist.” I was surprised by her interest, but even more humbled by her hospitality, her time and her openess.
These women’s accomplishments are remarkable. Youtha was math educator long before entering Howard University’s Divinity School and later becoming Assistant Dean and professor at the Wesley Theological Seminary. Ms. Rehm’s public radio career is marked with countless interviews with local to world leaders as she has steadily grown a community of listeners into a global audience. Yet, knowing of the times in which they forged their way and the challenges they transcended, I was struck by their graceful sensitivities, their willingness to share of themselves and their genuine interest in others –just ordinary people like me, who were small encounters in their busy lives.
In my heart, I frequently relive my visits with Youtha and Ms. Rehm and hear the echoes of their encouraging voices. I recall departing their homes filled with epiphanous energy and gratitude.
May your coming year include unanticipated moments of inspiration and opportunities to inspire, encourage, and be an unexpected blessing to those around you.