As Brianna had done her interviews with Henry, she often would look at photographs at what had been called the Purpose Day ceremony. Henry established Purpose Day as a time when each resident could share what they thought of their purpose. Older residents would help younger ones in presenting their purpose. It was a truly emotional moment in the lives of everyone.
As Brianna looked at each year’s composite photograph, she was struck by the change in how the female residents looked. Her female classmates were dressed in clothes they came with or hand-me-downs from older residents. In more recent years the girls wore beautiful dresses and they had a more confident look. What Brianna noticed was that she saw the same dresses in a number of photographs but different girls were wearing them. The clothes seemed to have defined the way the girls thought of themselves. What made the difference? She would soon find out because Henry had asked her to interview Cecilia, a woman ten years her junior.
When Cecilia came to Henry’s foundation, her self-esteem was as low as anyone Henry had ever invited to his foundation. When an older resident gave her a scarf, Cecilia saw that scarf as a sign. Her confidence began to slowly improve.
When she wandered into a little-used room, she began to see possibilities she had never envisioned. There was an old sewing machine and fabric remnants.
She taught herself how to use the sewing machine through trial and error and many finger bleeds. The remnants were beautiful but very limited in size. Remembering the joy that she got from the scarf given to her, she made scarves for other girls in the foundation. Henry noticed the impact that such a simple thing as scarves had on the self-image of the girls. He decided to ask Cecilia to expand her efforts.
Henry took Cecilia and girls 15 years and older to a fabric store. He asked each of them to pick a pattern and cloth they would like to use for a dress. Then he bought six modern sewing machines and asked a woman he knew to teach sewing classes.
Cecilia was clearly the star student but others developed a sewing talent as well. What was even more important was the impact the hand-made dresses had on the self-image of the residents. Over time all of the residents made their own clothes, but they also left a legacy of achievement for future residents. The clothing library expanded over the years as each resident added to it.
For Cecilia, finding the sewing machine was a crucible moment for her talent discovery. When she left Henry’s foundation, she set-up a small boutique dress shop called Forever Fashions. She did her own designs with the intent that they would be fashionable for many years. Her motto was: Clothes your granddaughter would be proud to wear.
As the boutique grew in popularity, Cecilia hired some alumni from Henry’s foundation that found they had a sewing talent. She also hired a number of single moms and taught them how to sew.
As Brianna reflected on Cecilia’s story, she marveled at the multiplier impact of one person’s talent discovery. Could that be the genius behind what Henry had created?
* * *
“Beautiful things come together one stitch at a time.”