Recently I had the privilege of producing a fashion show for the women of Catherine’s Center, a local residential living center for women who have previously been incarcerated. CC is one of the restorative Justice programs under the St . Vincent de Paul Society of San Mateo County, and is funded solely by SVDP and private donors.
I happened upon the center through a friend who was doing volunteer work there. As soon as I met the Program Director, I knew. I knew that what they were doing was transformative work. I knew that I wanted to spend time with these women. I knew that is was time for me to give back for all the blessings that I have received. I knew that what I had learned over my life, through my Creativity Coaching Certification, Angelic Reiki Certification and plain old life lessons, would add value to their lives.
What I didn’t know, was how working with these women would help me assess my own journey of transformation. What I didn’t know, was that these women are just like you and me except for their life circumstances. What I didn’t know was how powerful this would be for their journey. I have not walked the walk they have, but this was one more walk in their transformational journey in life. They have souls and hearts, they are caring, concerned, frightened, excited, scared, delighted human beings. I was able to witness a myriad of their emotions through the time spent with them as we fitted them in their outfits from St. Vincent DePaul stores. As we rehearsed, I witnessed raw, real emotions. Emotions that anyone would have when faced with the prospect of walking a runway, a new experience for most. Nervousness, anxiety, fear of wearing something they hated, fear of tripping, and fear of looking foolish. Did they all love their outfits? No, but did they all end up wearing them? YES.
I have produced hundreds of fashion shows over the past 25 years. I have worked with professional and student models, moms and dads, breast cancer survivors– many reticent - but all rocked the runway with grace. I have heard complaints about clothes and music (hey, we all have our own opinion, and that’s totally fine!). I have loved every single show that I worked on. AND, I believe that everyone who was ever in one of these shows experienced a little transformation as well. Nothing can beat the feeling of love and warmth from the audience as they clap for friends, relatives and those they didn’t know. It takes a lot to step out in front of hundreds of people and do something you have never done before. I have been proud of all of my models.
However, I was particularly proud of the women of Catherine’s Center, for their authenticity, and for their willingness to literally take a step outside of the box. I saw genuine smiles as they brilliantly walked the runway. There were no complaints about the very lively and “pop” style songs that I selected. They grooved and moved and the audience clapped along with the music. Yes, I used “Happy” -that overplayed but delightfully upbeat song that puts everyone in a good mood. They also jived to Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” and “Light up the World” - the Glee original song. These women owned the runway.
I am continuing my work with the women at the center. The Program Director said they could never thank me enough. But they have. The hugs from the women, and the declarations that they want me as their mentor. Well, what do you think? I am still living a blessed life, and the women are shining their inner light a little brighter.