Generosity of the heart is free as the wind. One wise woman and her merry band of volunteers have hearts that overflow with the spirit of givng and love. Terry Grahl is the founder of a remarkable organization called Enchanted Makeovers. Her life was forever changed when in 2007, she walked into a homeless shelter, invited as a volunteer to enhance it with her creative decorative skills. When she walked out, faith carried her the next steps along her journey. Enchanted Makeovers rehabs, renovates and re-decorates homeless shelters, to make them welcoming places for women and children to become thrivers, but even more than that, those who are involved in this work of he(art), help re-create lives.
I was invited to speak at an event which was part of the Beauty and Hope National Tour, held October 16th and 17th at York Street Project in Jersey City, NJ, which has as its purpose “to weave innovative programs that shelter, feed, educate and promote the healing and independence of persons in need, especially women and their children.”
Upon walking into the clean, brightly lit building, I was greeted by the sight of women ranging in age from 17-early 50′s who were garbed in donated sage green t-shirts silkscreened with the outline of a women in yogic warrior one pose, with the line proclaiming “I am a warrior” enscribed in such a way that it can only be easily read by looking at it in a mirror. Each of them was determined to transform her life, in part by graduating from an accredited high school called Kenmare, thus potentially avoiding the cycle of poverty and abuse.
The floor was a sea of yoga mats; laid upon each were two handstitched quilts bearing words like faith, inspire, spirit, love, strength and empathy. Nestled on the quilts were journals and pens in preparation for an empowering journaling class offered by Jennifer Tuma-Young, a divinely inspired writer and speaker. A yoga class was expertly taught by Carol Driscoll who had the women moving and stretching, not just their bodies, but their minds and spirits as well.
Post yoga, we were ushered in to a magically transformed room that had been dabbled with paint in which love was certainly an ingredient. The artist collective is called Cre8tive Sisters and they had designed a faerie land mural complete with sheltering trees, a wildly riotous gathering of flowers, birds and butterflies. Appropriately, there was an image of one emerging from a chysalis, to symbolize the metamorphosis the women in the program were experiencing. We were then serenaded by Jacqueline Astete whose exquisite voice rendered a song she had written for the occasion, called A Moment in Peace. A full, rich day indeed and that was just DAY ONE!
The following afternoon, I meandered into the room; yoga mats replaced by tables bearing all manner of cosmetic embellishment as the women were undergoing physical makeovers. Volunteers from various cosmetology schools and services were transforming the outer visage of these warriors; many who the day before, appeared weary and worn. Laughter and animated conversation filled the air, as makeup brushes dabbed on hues and shades, scissors trimmed hair and polish coated manicured finger nails. Racks of gently worn donated outfits stood in rainbow array as the women perused through, seeking the perfect one. I watched with glee, as they modeled for each other and themselves, primping and posing for clicking cameras and a videographer who captured these two days of delight.
That night, we enjoyed a palate satisfying four course dinner at a harbor side restaurant. As if by divine design (perhaps it was:), an acapella group called Choice-Jersey City’s Bad Boys were vocalizing on the deck. Terry approached the men and requested that they offer a song for the women of the York Street project. Gladly, they complied and they rendered a soul and hip shaking, hand clapping version of The Girl’s Alright With Me, that did the Temptations proud. They interspersed words of encouragement to the group, reminding them how beautiful and powerful they were.
I was the dinner speaker that night and allowed Spirit to guide my words. What came forth was a reminder that although they felt prettier with makeup, hair and clothing re-done, they were no less beautiful the day prior without it. Some of them had never before worn cosmetics and at least one had borne the tell-tale marks of abuse that the makeup covered. Once the ’face paint’ was washed off, their inner beauty would indeed remain.
It was truly a transformational weekend for all; both volunteers and those we served; no us and them, no separation between us. All emerged healed.